Minnesota’s sulfate standard to protect wild rice
The MPCA's sulfate standard for wild rice has been a topic of much interest and activity in recent months. On this page, the MPCA will share information about ongoing studies, current and future rulemaking, and other MPCA news related to this standard.
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MPCA to hold Wild Rice Standards Study Advisory Committee on Wednesday, November 13, 2013
The MPCA will hold the next Wild Rice Standards Study Advisory Committee Meeting Wednesday, November 13, 2013 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. in St. Paul. The meeting will take place at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 6th floor North and South Conference Rooms at 500 Lafayette Road North.
- Welcome/Introductions - 12:30 p.m.
- Advisory Committee Agenda Items - 12:45 p.m.
- Study Progress/Status - 1 p.m.
- Hydroponic experiments
Break - 2 p.m.
- Outdoor container experiments
- Sediment Incubation experiments
- Overall Timeline for Wild Rice Activities Going Forward - 3 p.m.
- Next Meeting - 3:15 p.m.
Adjourn - 3:30 p.m.
Wild rice is an important component of aquatic communities in parts of Minnesota, particularly northern Minnesota. It provides food for waterfowl, and shelter for animals and fish. Wild rice is also a very important cultural resource to many Minnesotans, and is economically important to those who harvest and market wild rice.
Sulfate is a natural chemical commonly found in air, soil and water. It can be found at varying concentrations in discharges from permitted facilities such as mining operations, wastewater treatment plants and other industrial facilities. The primary factor in sulfate loading to surface water is the surface geology of Minnesota. For example, the glaciers left relatively high-sulfur soils across southwestern Minnesota, which contribute sulfate to lakes and streams.
Past studies have shown that wild rice is primarily found in waters with relatively low sulfate concentrations. In 1973 Minnesota adopted a standard to protect this important resource. This 10 mg/liter sulfate standard, which is found in Minnesota Rules 7050.0224, subpart 2, protects “water used for production of wild rice during periods when the rice may be susceptible to damage by high sulfate levels.” This standard applied to both natural standards of wild rice and commercial paddy rice fields.
The Minnesota Legislature provided funding in 2011 for a Wild Rice Standards Study to gather additional information about the effects of sulfate and other substances on the growth of wild rice in the Legacy Amendment Bill. The legislation included a $1.5 million appropriation to implement a wild rice research plan and contract with scientific experts to conduct the study. The MPCA was also directed to produce a report on the status of wild rice rulemaking and research implementation by December 2011.
Research conducted via the standards study is based on a scientific protocol developed in 2010-2011 by the MPCA in consultation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Minnesota Tribes, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and with input from interested and affected stakeholders. The protocol identifies key information needed to enhance understanding of the effects of sulfate on wild rice. MPCA technical staff worked with agency contract specials to develop a competitive Request for Proposal for the Wild Rice Standards Study research.
Research projects funded through the study began in 2012 and will be completed by December 2013. The study will include multiple lines of evidence focused on three key areas:
- field survey
- laboratory experiments
- mesocosm (pot) experiments
Mid-Project Review and Open House Presentations and Posters
Note that these items contain preliminary information, which the MPCA is using to guide the collection of additional study data. It is not appropriate to draw conclusions from this information prior to study completion.
- Wild Rice Standards Study Mid-Project Review Introduction
- Wild Rice Sulfate Standard Field Survey
- Hydroponic Studies on Effects of Sulfate on Wild Rice Growth and Development
- Temperature Dependent Sulfate Transport and Reaction in Sediment
- Wild Rice Standards Study Annotated Bibliography
- Mesocosm Studies on Effects of Sulfate on Wild Rice Growth and Development
- Wild Rice Standards Study Budget
- MPCA “Straw” Proposal for 2013
- Wild Rice Standards Study Open House
QAPPS Quality Assurance Project Plans
- Wild Rice Sulfate Standard Hydroponic Experiment on the Response of Wild Rice to Sulfate - Quality Assurance Project Plan
- Wild Rice Sulfate Standard Mesocosm Studies - Quality Assurance Project Plan
- Wild Rice Sulfate Standard Hydroponic Experiment on Response of Wild Rice to Sulfide QAPP
- Minnesota Wild Rice Sulfate Standard 2013 Field Survey QAPP
- Wild Rice Sulfate Standard Sediment Incubation Experiment QAPP
The Legislature directed the MPCA to form an advisory committee as part of the legislation passed during the 2011 Special Session. The Wild Rice Standards Study Advisory Committee began meeting in October 2011. The group’s charge is “to provide input to the Commissioner on a protocol for scientific research to assess the impacts of sulfate and other substances on the growth of wild rice, review research results and provide other advice on the development of future rule amendments to protect wild rice.” Members of the group include representatives of Tribes, municipal wastewater treatment facilities, industrial dischargers, wild rice harvesters, wild rice research experts and citizen organizations.
All meeting information, including agendas and meeting summaries can be found in PDF documents below. The meeting summaries are bookmarked for ease in searching for a specific meeting.
As required by the Clean Water Act, MPCA regularly reviews, and, as needed, updates Minnesota’s water quality standards; this update is known as the triennial review. As part of the current review, the MPCA is working to clarify what constitutes “water used for production of wild rice.” The MPCA is developing a proposed approach and getting input from interested and affected parties, including Minnesota Tribes, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Wild Rice Standards Study Advisory Committee.
Any additional rulemaking that might be needed for revision of the wild rice sulfate standard would take place at a later time after the wild rice research studies are completed. If needed, this rulemaking would begin in Spring 2014 with completion of the rulemaking expected in Spring 2015.
While the standards study and rulemaking are underway, the MPCA is implementing the current standard of 10 mg/liter in water quality permits on a case-by-case basis. The following document outlines current implementation of the wild rice standard in agency permits.
In accordance with Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is responsible for assessing waters of the state to protect designated uses, such as drinking water, fishing, swimming, irrigation or industrial purposes. “Impaired waters” are those waters that do not meet water quality standards for one or more water quality parameters, thus they are “impaired” or not supporting their designated uses. The MPCA makes assessment determinations by comparing monitoring data to water quality standards. Additional information is available on the MPCA’s Water Quality Assessment and Listing page.
During the summer of 2013, the MPCA will assess waters for the 10 mg/L sulfate standard in Minnesota Rules 7050.0224, subpart 2, that protects “water used for production of wild rice during periods when the rice may be susceptible to damage by high sulfate levels.” On April 1, 2013 the MPCA published an official call for data in the State Register and sent an email notice via GovDelivery to solicit sulfate data and wild rice information for consideration in the assessment.
The MPCA is interested in obtaining all available sulfate and wild rice water quality data. To ensure that data are available for the 2013 assessment process, potential data submitters are asked to provide data to MPCA by May 1, 2013 in accordance with the following instructions.
Instructions for submitting sulfate data
To be included in the assessment, sulfate data must be uploaded to the state’s environmental quality information system — EQuIS — prior to data analysis. All applicable, credible and readily accessible sulfate data must be submitted using the Sulfate Data Submittal Template . Completed data submittal templates should be emailed to email@example.com. Do not include data that have been previously stored in the EQuIS database under other projects.
The Sulfate Data Submittal template includes three worksheets:
- Sulfate Data Submittal, and
- Location Establishment
Please review the Instructions worksheet and then enter your data as directed. All EQuIS-ready data will be stored as preliminary until reviewed through the agency’s Data Review Process. Upon completion, the status will be changed from preliminary to final, making the data available for all agency purposes. An MPCA-approved Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) associated with the sulfate data must also be on file or submitted to agency by May 1, 2013. Guidance for completing and submitting a QAPP is available on the MPCA’s Quality System for Environmental Data webpage. For assistance with the template and entering data into the EQuIS MPCA database, contact Lynda Nelson, 651-757-2601 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Minnesota Wild Rice and Sulfate map tool shows locations where sulfate data have been previously collected along with median sulfate concentrations at sample locations. This mapping tool also shows locations of wild rice waterbodies that have been identified and inventoried by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Data shown on the map do not represent the exclusive universe of data that will be considered for assessment purposes.
Instructions for submitting wild rice data
To be included in the assessment, wild rice information must be submitted using the Wild Rice Data Submittal Template and sent by email to email@example.com. This template requires the latitude and longitude of the wild rice bed, the wild rice bed area and density information about the wild rice. Locational coordinates and an estimate of area can be obtained through use of the Minnesota Wild Rice and Sulfate map tool.
The map tool allows users to zoom into a lake, river, or wetlands and find the latitude and longitude of a known wild rice stand for which they plan to submit information. The map tool also includes a measuring feature that allows users to estimate the area of a known wild rice stand.
For assessment purposes, the MPCA is particularly interested in waters with wild rice beds of at least one acre in a lake or 0.1 acre along a one mile river/stream stretch with a stem density of equal to or greater than 2 stems per square meter. Estimating wild rice plant density will require some knowledge and reflection on individual wild rice beds. If there are noncontiguous wild rice beds within the same water body for lakes or noncontiguous beds in rivers, the average density should be estimated for each individual bed. The Wild Rice Data Submittal Template includes photos showing a range of stem densities.
When filling out the Wild Rice Data Submittal Template , you may use the Minnesota Wild Rice and Sulfate map tool to identify the waterbody ID number, measure the area of your wild rice stand and identify the latitude and longitude of the middle of the wild rice stand.
For assistance using the data submittal template, contact Gerald Blaha at 651-757-2234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mapping tool instructions
- Zoom to your lake, river, or wetland until the name of the waterbody appears. (Note: not all waterbodies are named in this mapping tool. For those waters without identified names, enter them as “Unnamed” under the waterbody name column of the submittal template.)
- Use the slider bar, a mouse’s scroll wheel, or pinch zoom to zoom the map in and out.
- Click and drag using a mouse or finger to pan the map.
- Measure the area of your wild rice stand.
- Click on the measure tool, change the units from square miles to acres and click on three or more points on the map. Double click to finish drawing and the acreage will appear in the Results box.
- Find the latitude and longitude coordinates of the approximate center point of the wild rice stand.
- Click on the location button on the measure tool then click on the center of the stand.
- Copy and paste these coordinates under the appropriate columns of the wild rice data submittal template.
- The MPCA’s established monitoring locations are included on the map. Clicking on the various map icons will bring up dialogue boxes with one or more dialogue box pages. To page through the dialogue box pages, click on the arrow symbol at the top of the pop-up dialogue box.
The development of the assessment method for the 10 mg/L sulfate water quality standard for wild rice production waters is ongoing. During the month of May 2013 the MPCA received several comments on the draft assessment method. These comments were considered and changes to the draft assessment method were made. Comments received are compiled in the following file:
- Public Comments on Draft Assessment Method for the 10mg/L Sulfate Standard for Wild Rice Production Waters
Proposed 2013 Wild Rice/Sulfate Impaired Waters Assessment Approach
Waters to be evaluated during the 2013 wild rice/sulfate impaired waters assessments
The wild rice-based sulfate standard of 10 mg/L contained in Minn. R. 7050.0224, subpart 2 specifies that the standard is “applicable to water used for production of wild rice during periods when the rice may be susceptible to damage by high sulfate levels.”
For the purpose of the 2013 wild rice/sulfate impaired waters assessments, a water body will be considered as a “water used for production of wild rice” through an evaluation process that parallels the current approach undertaken by MPCA staff when issuing discharge permits to waters containing wild rice stands. These wild rice stands can be existing stands in a water body or they can be previously documented stands present within a water body in the recent past dating back to November 28, 1975.
This case-by-case evaluation will consider the following in making the determination as to whether or not a water body will be part of the 2013 wild rice/sulfate assessment process:
- The water body meets the sulfate data requirements outlined below; and
- The water body is listed in Appendix B of the February 15, 2008 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources report to the Minnesota Legislature titled Natural Wild Rice in Minnesota (MDNR 2008 report); or
- Additional wild rice water body location information provided by the MDNR Shallow Lakes program in response to the April 1, 2013 call for wild rice and sulfate data; or
- The water body is listed in the MDNR Zizania database as having wild rice identified within the surveyed portion of the lake or river system; or
- The water body has been identified and listed as a wild rice water by the 1854 Treaty Authority; or
- The water body was surveyed and wild rice stands were documented by NPDES/SDS permittees in connection with a pending discharge permit issuance or re-issuance; or
- The water body is identified as being associated with a MDNR aquatic plant management permit application for either the removal of wild rice plants or the introduction (planting) of wild rice; or
- Additional wild rice information that was submitted for a particular water body in response to the recent MPCA call for wild rice and sulfate data noticed in the April 1, 2013 State Register (37 SR 1438).
A general screening approach of the waters identified from the resource references noted above will include an evaluation of available wild rice acreage and density data. Wild rice stand acreage and density information will then be factored in as important considerations leading to the draft listing of sulfate impaired waters used for the production of wild rice.
The wild rice/sulfate impaired waters assessment will be rooted in a site selection process designed to provide a defensible list of impaired waters. As a starting point, the MPCA will look at all identified wild rice water bodies where sulfate and wild rice data line up. Secondarily, the MPCA will look at what additional wild rice information is available at those sites. In cases where no density/acreage is available, the MPCA will make a professional judgment determination as to whether or not it is reasonable to evaluate those sites during this assessment cycle. Sites where available narrative or quantifiable wild rice acreage and density information is lacking will be flagged waters where additional information is needed in order to complete an impaired waters assessment. If the needed information is obtained, these flagged waters will be included in a subsequent assessment cycle.
Assessment criteria for sulfate concentrations in wild-rice waters
Assessments will be based on median sulfate concentrations over the April through August critical season, taken from data sets that give unbiased representations of overall conditions during that period. The April through August time period was chosen because it generally covers the time of the year when wild rice is actively growing. To help ensure that assessments are representative of current water quality conditions, data over the last ten years will be considered, although a known change in conditions during those ten years may mean that only the more recent data are used for the assessment decision.
A water body will be considered to be impaired if it is determined to be a “water used for production of wild rice” and the median sulfate concentration is statistically significantly greater than the state water quality standard. The statistical analysis will be done through the use of the non-parametric Wilcoxon signed-ranks test or the binomial sign test at a 0.1 level of significance. Non-parametric tests are being used because they avoid potentially unwarranted assumptions about the statistical distribution of the data; a 0.1 level of statistical significance is being used because is it judged to appropriately balance the risk of improperly listing a water that is not in fact impaired against the opposite risk of improperly failing to list a water that is in fact impaired.
Various levels of significance are commonly used in statistical tests, depending on the objectives and implications of the tests. There is no mathematically necessary reason for choosing one level over another. Rather, it is a matter of finding an appropriate balance between the real costs of “false positives” against the just as real costs of “false negatives.” There are certainly regulatory and monetary implications of 303(d) listings, and the use of a lower (such as .05) level of statistical significance would decrease the possibility of incorrectly listing a given water body as impaired. It would do so, however, only at the cost of increasing the number of water bodies that are actually impaired but which fail to get listed and thus receive the necessary corrective measures. The 0.1 significance level was chosen because it appropriately balances these two risks.
Further, it is important to point out that when a water body is placed on the 303(d) list the next step is to do additional monitoring to better ascertain the nature and cause of the impairment. If this additional monitoring does not confirm the decision to list a water body as impaired, a correction will be made to the list.
All water bodies which are determined to be “water[s] used for production of wild rice” and which have sulfate data meeting the criteria above will be assessed. Water bodies which have a nominal median sulfate value above 10 mg/L but which are not considered to be impaired, as determined by the statistical tests above, will be identified as needing additional monitoring and assessment.
If you questions or comments on the draft the assessment method or questions related to how the sulfate and wild rice data will be considered for assessment purposes, contact Katrina Kessler at 651-757-2490 or email@example.com.
In order to assessment waters as part of the 2013 assessment cycle, the MPCA needs to receive sulfate data and wild rice information by May 1, 2013. The MPCA will make the draft assessment method available for public review by June 1, 2013.
MPCA staff will complete assessments during the summer of 2013. The assessment results, the draft 2014 impaired waters list, and the assessment methods will be made public in the fall of 2013 via a formal public notice. The MPCA will review and respond to public comments during the third quarter of 2013 and submit a 2014 303(d) list to EPA in the spring of 2014 for EPA review and approval.
- General questions: Patricia Engelking, 651-757-2340, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rulemaking — water used for production of wild rice: Mark Tomasek, 651-757-2788, email@example.com
- Wild Rice Standards Study research: Edward Swain, 651-757-2772, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wild Rice Standards Study Advisory Committee: Patricia Engelking, 651-757-2340, email@example.com
- Current implementation of wild rice sulfate standard: Katrina Kessler, 651-757-2490, firstname.lastname@example.org