The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

February 27, 2013

Despite drought, Minnesota lets water users exceed limits

WORTHINGTON — At a time when drought threatens state water supplies, scores of water permit holders in Minnesota are illegally using billions of gallons more water then they're entitled to.

Over the last six years, hundreds of individuals, businesses and even state government agencies have pumped more than their permit allows, according to state Department of Natural Resources records. But violators face few consequences for these misdemeanor violations. Even in a two-year drought, DNR officials admit they don't spend much time enforcing permit limits.

The violations come from nearly every category of water user: cities, crop irrigators, power companies, private businesses, golf courses, schools, government agencies, even a church. All have a state permit which lets them take a set amount of water each year from underground wells, rivers, lakes and wetlands. But many aren't obeying the terms of their permit.

"There's no doubt that a lot of them are appropriating more water than they're currently authorized," Dale Homuth, manager of the department's conservation assistance and regulations section.

The DNR could enforce the permits. But Homuth said stopping the excessive pumping is not a high priority. Instead, he said, the DNR's top objectives include processing new water permits.

"The number of new permit applications we're dealing with are at record levels the last couple of years," Homuth said. "Everyone of those is complicated, controversial, takes a lot of staff time. And we have the same staffing levels we've had for 20 years dealing on these water appropriation permits."

Another top priority is finding and dealing with illegal, non-permitted wells, he said.

But state Rep. Jean Wagenius, who chairs of the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee, disagrees with the policy.

Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, said drought is stretching the state's water resources. She said the DNR should give over-pumping equal priority to processing new permits and finding illegal pumping.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • 1 hurt in fiery Twin Cities interstate crash ROSEVILLE, Minn. (AP) — Authorities say one person was hurt in a fiery crash involving four vehicles on a Twin Cities interstate. The crash on Interstate 35 brought morning traffic to a halt during a rainy commute. The Minnesota State Patrol says a

    July 25, 2014

  • Black box found at Air Algerie wreckage site PARIS (AP) — French soldiers recovered a black box from the Air Algerie wreckage site in a desolate region of restive northern Mali on Friday, officials said. Terrorism hasn't been ruled out as a cause, although officials say the most likely reason f

    July 25, 2014

  • Ukraine reports overnight rebel attacks on border MOSCOW (AP) — The Ukrainian army on Friday claimed that soldiers came under artillery fire from the Russian side of the border overnight and were attacked by rebels in several other places in the restive east. Ukrainian forces are trying to close in

    July 25, 2014

  • Deal still elusive for Gaza cease-fire CAIRO (AP) — Turbulent negotiations to broker a temporary truce in the Gaza Strip are continuing against the backdrop of fresh Israeli attacks on Palestinian militants. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met twice Friday in Cairo with U.N. chief Ban

    July 25, 2014

  • Transcript shows concerns during Arizona execution FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) — U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake was attending a ceremony for a judicial colleague when he received an urgent — and unusual — request: Lawyers for a condemned inmate wanted him to stop an execution that didn't seem to be workin

    July 25, 2014

  • Sniper-Author-Ventura [Duplicate] Day 3 of deliberations ends in Ventura lawsuit Jury has deliberated 19 hours

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man accused of stealing from group HASTINGS (AP) — An Apple Valley man is charged with five counts of theft for allegedly stealing more than $113,000 from a Rosemount youth athletics group. Sixty-two-year-old Robert Steven Reischauer was the former finance manager of the Rosemount Ar

    July 24, 2014

  • Sanders offers lower-cost bill to reform VA Bill would allow vets to go to private doctors

    July 24, 2014

  • Wetland Loss [Duplicate] Report says Prairie Pothole region losing wetlands BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Federal officials and conservationists say a recent report detailing wetland losses in the five-state Prairie Pothole Region over the past decade highlights the need for increased protection for the region that provides breeding

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • France: Air Algerie flight vanishes over N Mali ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early Thursday over northern Mali, the plane's owner and a French government official said. Air navigation services lost

    July 24, 2014