Steve Giorgi
Executive Director
Phone: 218-780-8877
Email: SGiorgi@ramsmn.org

RAMS hearing 1940

Kawishiwi Falls - Ely MN photo by Adrian Koski 2016

Cuyuna

Moon over Queen City photo created by Matt Herberg

RAMS delegation with Senator Klobuchar

2016 Press conference on US Forest Service - Virginia, MN

DC delegation on land withdrawal 2017

Boycott the hearing rally 2017

Mayor Rick Cannata Wild RIce/Sulfate rally

New bridge at night photo by P Pluswick

Hwy 53 bridge Nov 2016 photo by F Luomanen

Pike Bay Marina Lake Vermilion

Conversation with U.S. Senator Smith

Friday the 13th turned out to be a lucky day for a host of Iron Range elected officials, labor leaders and chamber representatives who were in attendance at the meeting hosted by RAMS and our special guest; U.S. Senator Tina Smith. The Senator agreed to meet and discuss a strategy to find a pathway to move the PolyMet Land exchange legislation to passage. Many in the audience were very disappointed that the land exchange legislation, crafted and passed by Congressmen Nolan and Emmer in the House was not included in the Omnibus spending bill in early April. This seemed to be the best route to have the bill included, but unfortunately and despite the efforts of both of our Senators, it was not included.

Senator Smith committed to working with us and exploring multiple options including using her position on the Ag committee, along with Senator Klobuchar as a route, or working to include it in the NDAA – National Defense Appropriation Act. All of this work will take time, the Congress is not in session during summer months and the Senate does not address single, stand-alone bills. After the meeting with Senator Smith, our group held a conference call with Senator Amy Klobuchar who was unable to attend the meeting. Senator Klobuchar indicated she had a conversation with Senate Minority Leader Schumer the previous day and expressed her strong support for getting this bill included in another large bill during the session. She will be speaking with Senator McCain, who chairs the Defense committee and would play a significant role in allowing the land exchange to be attached to the NDAA.

The Minnesota DNR cannot issue a “permit to mine” even after their review process is completed, which should be later this summer, without the land exchange at the Federal level being completed. Keep in mind, the land exchange was approved during the Obama administration and Congressman Nolan passed his bill HR 3115 in late November 2017.

 

NEWEST MEMBERS TO JOIN RAMS:  

City of McKinley – Welcome to RAMS.  Thanks Mayor Nygaard.  City of Aitkin.

The Range Association of Municipalities & Schools is always looking to add to the membership base.  The RAMS motto: “ONE RANGE – ONE VOICE” becomes even stronger with every new member.  Already in 2018, RAMS has been pleased to announce the addition of six new Corporate Members:
US Steel
Cleveland Cliffs

Northeast Technical Services (NTS)
VIC’s Crane & Heavy Haul, Inc.
RMS Road Machinery Supplies, Inc.
Arcelor/Mittal Minorca Mine Inc.
RAMS has worked with these companies on issue that are impacting the Range such as wild rice/sulfate standards, promotion of mineral exploration and the continued support for “our way of life” on the Iron Range.  RAMS is grateful to these companies for their support and membership, and encourages your community, or business to consider becoming a member.  Contact Steve @ sgiorg@ramsmn.org for more information.

Fostering economic development across Minnesota’s Iron Range

One Range… One Voice

Ensuring the voices of our Range cities, townships, and schools will be heard on the issues of economic enhancement and quality of life.

Serving Cities, Townships and Schools since 1939.

The Range Association of Municipalities & Schools (RAMS) was created in 1939 by the joining together of the Range Civic Association and the Range Municipalities Committee to promote legislation beneficial to its membership.
The main function of RAMS is to monitor proposed State and Federal legislation and determine how it may affect Association member units of government. The Range Association of Municipalities & Schools (RAMS) works closely with the Iron Range Delegation, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) , and area economic development entities to further community development and quality of life for all member units.


dave_lislegard

Aurora Mayor and RAMS President – Dave Lislegard

Message From the President:

“The RAMS organization is essential in helping our region move forward. RAMS strength comes from who it represents collectively not any one individually. Speaking as “One Range-One Voice” is what makes RAMS so effective. It’s an organization that I’m proud to be a part of.”

Message From Director

FINALLY….SOME POSITIVE NEWS FOR THE RANGE

MPCA Admits….No Solution in Sight on Wild Rice Sulfate Issue

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) finally released the comprehensive independent report conducted by Bolton & Menk, Inc. and Barr Engineering Company on the affordability of sulfate removal from wastewater, as well as looking at alternative treatment methods for sulfate removal.  Minnesota is the only state in the nation that has a sulfate standard for wild rice waters.  The standard developed from research in the 1940’s is intended to protect wild rice but has never been enforced since put into law in 1973.

The Minnesota legislature providing financing and a directive to the MPCA in recent years, to undergo new research on the impacts of sulfate on wild rice, conduct public hearings, develop a new standard and determine the cost of treatment for local municipalities and industrial dischargers.  After several years of contested research, many public hearings, and a new proposed standard, an administrative law judge determined the new rule was “constitutionally vague and unenforceable”.  Subsequently, the legislature passed bills to abolish the standard and provide additional funding for wild rice restoration,  which Governor Dayton vetoed (twice). All of this occurred before this affordability report was completed and released calling into question the wisdom of spending all that time and effort at the Capitol last session on this issue.

The report states in plain English the following determination: “The study results show that reverse osmosis is the one treatment method that is closest to being feasible – but that it is NOT currently affordable.  The 30 other treatment processes evaluated either would not effectively remove sulfate from wastewater, were not yet developed enough to be used, or would cost even more than reverse osmosis.”  This is virtually the same testimony provided at the MPCA public hearing on this matter by RAMS, and the same position taken by our organization on behalf of the 13 Iron Range communities targeted as having wastewater plants that discharge to wild rice waters as identified by the MPCA.

At the end of the legislative session, after twice vetoing bills to correct this situation, Governor Dayton issued an executive order to establish a task force on wild rice.  The task force would be made up by a diverse group of people representing industry, our native tribes, environmentalist, independent scientists, a public waste water operator and a non-government representative along with staff from the MPCA and DNR.  The task force was to meet and develop recommendations for the 2019 legislative session by December 15, 2018.  To date the task force has not been selected making their task virtually untenable for this important issue.

Two final points of interest.  The firms conducting this independent study were allowed to analyze treatment options that would result in a final sulfate limit of 250 mg/L, not the current standard of 10 mg/L.  For those who don’t know the standard for potable water is 250 mg/L, so why is the standard for wastewater so much lower?  The report also states: Sulfur in wastewater is most commonly present as sulfate or sulfide, which originates primarily from drinking water sources, human waste, and industrial discharges. More than 95% of municipalities in Minnesota use groundwater as the source for their drinking water. The concentrations of sulfate in the groundwater vary geographically across the state from less than 10 mg/L to over 500 mg/L.

 

Unfortunately, this issue was not addressed in the last session and will once again be in front of the legislature and the new Governor in 2019.  Perhaps common sense can be applied to the problem this time now that much needed information around costs and feasibility of treatment options are now available.
This should not be that difficult.  Make a permanent funding source available for wild rice growth and rehabilitation efforts.  Allow our native people to control water levels and invasive species proven to be one of the most detrimental factors to wild rice growth and Minnesota will have a vibrant natural wild rice crop for generations.  Isn’t that what we all want?

 



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