The DNR has determined a discretionary Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) is no longer needed to evaluate the environmental effects associated with the Pineland Sands groundwater appropriation projects.
R.D. Offutt Co. (RDO), a North Dakota-based agriculture company, has voluntarily reduced the number of new water appropriation permit applications on file with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
At one time, RDO had 54 preliminary notifications and/or groundwater appropriation permit applications pending with the DNR. It has now withdrawn all but five groundwater appropriation permit applications for new irrigated crop production sites in Minnesota’s Pineland Sands area, located in Becker, Cass, Hubbard, and Wadena counties.
The DNR was concerned with potential impacts to groundwater and surface water associated with the proposed expansion of irrigated crop production in the Pineland Sands area. Many of the parcels in question had been in commercial timber production, and the DNR was also concerned with effects from land use conversion.
As a result, in February of this year, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr ordered a discretionary environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) to evaluate the potential impacts of RDO’s proposed groundwater appropriations.
Following this order, DNR and RDO officials met several times to discuss the EAW process and the scope of the company’s applications and preliminary notifications. These discussions resulted in RDO voluntarily reducing its permit applications to five. This reduction has eliminated the need for a discretionary EAW.
The DNR will evaluate RDO’s remaining five groundwater appropriation applications using its established permitting process. This evaluation process will ensure the DNR’s decisions on these five applications will be consistent with sustainable use of groundwater in the area.
The DNR remains concerned with the broader implications of increased irrigated crop production and land conservation in the Pineland Sands and needs better information for future potential permitting decisions in certain parts of the area. The DNR is proposing a special study of groundwater use and land use change in the Pineland Sands area. The special study will focus on several key areas within the Pineland Sands where anticipated irrigation applications and potential impacts are greatest.