, , , , ,

When we moved to northern Minnesota back in 2016 we were pretty surprised to see so much animosity towards the Minnesota DNR. We’d moved to Minnesota for the abundant water and large trees we found in Clearwater County. We figured the hunting and fishing crowd would be real excited about what the DNR typically does – making trails into forests for ATVs, managing woodlands and wetlands (so we thought) for the citizenry, and generally assuring their Mission:

The mission of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is to work with Minnesotans to conserve and manage the state’s natural resources, to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, and to provide for commercial uses of natural resources in a way that creates a sustainable quality of life.

MN DNR Mission Statement

We’re getting it now…

After 7 years of work in trying to protect the clean waters within our landscape, we’ve watched the DNR work more towards destruction than anything. They’ve been helped along by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency but we’re focused on the DNR for today’s Emergency Blog.

Perhaps taking a look at the DNR’s explanation of their mission statement will give some clues…

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources works to integrate and sustain the interdependent values of a healthy environment, a sustainable economy, and livable communities. DNR’s integrated resource management strategy shares stewardship responsibility with Minnesotans and partners to manage for multiple interests. DNR protects the state’s natural heritage by conserving the diversity of natural lands, waters, and fish and wildlife that provide the foundation for Minnesota’s recreational and natural resource-based economy (M.S. 84, M.S. 97A). DNR manages natural lands such as forests, wetlands, and native prairies; maintains healthy populations of fish and wildlife; and protects rare plant and animal communities throughout the state. DNR manages the state’s water resources, sustaining healthy waterways and ground water resources. DNR provides access to enrich public outdoor recreational opportunities, such as hunting, fishing, wildlife-watching, camping, skiing, hiking, biking, motorized recreation, and conservation education through a state outdoor recreation system that includes parks, trails, wildlife management areas, scientific and natural areas, water trails, and other facilities (M.S. 86A). DNR supports natural resource-based economies, managing state forest lands for multiple forest values (M.S. 89), ensuring the maximum long-term economic return from school trust lands (M.S. 127A), and providing other economic opportunities in a manner consistent with sound natural resource conservation and management principles.”

MN DNR Mission Statement (my emphasis)

So, it looks from here like MDNR is “managing” our natural resources for their “economic” value with their… “partners“. Yeah.

I once sat at lunch with Commissioner Strommen and asked her why it seemed the statutes for MDNR seemed mainly about overseeing the sales of natural resources and documenting to whom they sold them. She asked if I’d read the whole statute… but couldn’t tell me more about why they aren’t just about that. So I asked for her proudest achievement as Commissioner of the DNR. Now… granted, this was December 3, 2019… so maybe she hadn’t been in the job long enough to find a better one… still, her answer was pretty disappointing. She mentioned being super excited for a DNR public town hall that was REALLY well attended! I was nonplussed.

Today, we found another opportunity for a public gathering with the MN DNR and I’m betting she wasn’t NEARLY as excited about it. Let’s find out what happened!

The meeting was scheduled for 2 PM – ironically, at the same time many Environmental Groups opposed to Line 3 were ALSO meeting. Hmmm… No coincidence there? Divide and Conquer – that is the way of Empire.

I noted this comment pretty much summed up my opinion:

Gail Nosek, Communications Director for the MN DNR encouraged attendance with her re-tweet of the event:

So… I had to ask – afterwards:

Turns out, THIS was more the result of their “Office Hours” meeting:

What questions DID they hear? It seems the DNR was excited to tweet about that too! Though, as noted by the Minnesota Department of Snark, those didn’t include mine…

So, what was my question? I’m glad you asked!!! …though the MN DNR didn’t quite answer it.

My question is in regards understanding how the Minnesota DNR as land manager will adequately address climate change in Minnesota, especially as Commissioner Strommen mentioned the power of trees, and others spoke of water mgmt, both of which factor into my question.

In addition to other concerns in my past experience with MDNR, my recent reading of the Restoration and Replacement Order issued to Enbridge on their Line 3 project, troubled me as the DNR, following not just one or two but at LEAST SEVEN reports from the Independent Environmental Monitors, did nothing to intervene with expertise.

The February 2, 2021 report noted: “Due to excessive groundwater infiltration the site was backfilled and sheet piling was initiated. Despite backfill, groundwater has flowed to the surface.”

I’d ask WHY at that time NO ONE with MORE EXPERIENCE from the DNR came to review the situation. What did the Monitors think of this unrelenting groundwater flow? Why was this not seen as a situation that might require more expertise than theirs?

On February 20th, a Saturday, even the Environmental Resources Management group’s Technical Director “agreed that the turbidity was unusual for a well point dewatering”… 

Mid-March (on the 13th, 15th, & 16th) provided several reports in close succession regarding fine clay sediments and included in the final report a notice that “Enbridge issued [itself] an unacceptable report for improper dewatering structure” yet there was STILL NO MENTION from Enbridge OF A DIVERSION FROM THEIR CONSTRUCTION PERMIT, which might have assisted in far earlier resolution than a full three months later, when on June 15th, the IEMs happened to be asked by DNR staff about the “uncontrolled flow at the Clearbrook Terminal” of which (reportedly) “DNR staff were not previously aware”.

How were the DNR staff unaware when there were at least 7 reports regarding this situation in Q1? This mid-June report also notes: “Though the condition generated an Enbridge-issued “unacceptable” report in March, Enbridge did not bring the issue to DNR’s attention at that point either.” Does Enbridge have to ASK THE DNR to READ THEIR REPORTS? Is ANYONE AT DNR Reading the reports? Or are you all just trusting Enbridge to do what is right and “let you know” when you might need to hold them accountable?

Mr. Doneen took action the next day demanding more information, and, the following day, informed Enbridge to stop construction at this location. Why not STOP CONSTRUCTION for ALL ENBRIDGE WORK finding such an egregious error that had gone WITHOUT RESOLUTION by ENBRIDGE for almost 6 months!?!?

A full month later, flow continued and, though a 7/7/21 email from Merjent, Enbridge’s consultant, noted Enbridge was not monitoring flow or volume since March 18th, AND the bore pit was found in excess of that allowed in DNR’s constructon permit, AND on July 8th it was reported that a SECOND emergence of UNCONTROLLED FLOW “likely a direct result of the initial breach of the aquifer confining layer”, NO FULL STOPPAGE OF PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION OCCURRED! HOW can the citizens of Minnesota TRUST that the DNR will do ANYTHING PROACTIVE to assist in Climate Change when this is how poorly they oversee a project which is known to bring an incredible amount of exacerbation to the climate chaos we are already experiencing?

Jami Gaither question during the DNR’s 9/23/21 Office Hour

You decide for yourselves. But they also didn’t answer these other questions, also in the chat…

  • I am not feeling you have understood my concern… that DNR is not ON SITE in a major way during construction of such a large project that impacts climate implies a “let corporations do as they will” mentality. How can we trust your stance is NOT for major corporations as the Legislature may not allow you to be more proactive?
  • Will Enbridge be allowed to have tar sands flow through their new pipeline BEFORE the aquifer situation is remedied?
  • At what point WOULD DNR pull a permit? If the company WILLFULLY VIOLATED their Construction Permit – and it remains able to build their project, that seems to indicate the Permit you issued has NO VALUE.

I wrapped up by noting these things: