Tuesday, the Walker Pilot-Independent reported DNR orders EAW for RD Offutt potato field expansion.
Late Wednesday, papers in the Forum Communications chain reported in Northern Minnesota potato wars may have hit a turning point:
Maybe it's just a breather, but the long-simmering controversy between the R.D. Offutt Farms' potato field expansion project and environmentalists concerned about groundwater and lake pollution may have come to an end or at least reached a turning point.
After Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources gave a two-week notice last week that the Fargo-based company's irrigation water well permits in some of the eight northern Minnesota counties it operates in would require an environmental study, the company announced Wednesday, Aug. 1, that it has withdrawn its request for the final three permits.
The company had originally, years ago, asked for many more permits when it first announced its expansion plans, but there requests slowly dwindled.
"After a lot of discussions, we've decided to withdraw all (the last) three permits," said company spokesman Mark Dickerson about the decision he said was made on Monday.
Company officials didn't want to comment much more about the decision, although Dickerson provided a statement that said the company "has farmed in Minnesota for more than 50 years and maintains positive working relationships with local, county, and state officials. We are and will remain active participants in efforts to protect the natural resources of the state and the quality of life in the communities where our team members live and work." . . .
Minnesota's DNR, which first approved, then rejected a similar environmental worksheet assessment about three years ago for Offutt, sent the notification letter last week to Offutt that an environmental assessment worksheet would be needed before wells could be drilled in the sandy soils that need water to be productive.
Environmental groups and residents of the region they call the Pineland Sands said that call for a study was a win as they continue their protests because of concerns about groundwater contamination, deforestation and aquifer draining because of irrigation systems and chemicals used on the fields.
The DNR had planned to start work on it the study Aug. 6 with a decision on whether to advance into a much more extensive Environmental Impact Statement within six to nine months, according to assistant DNR commissioner Barbara Naramore.
That EIS is what the protesters in the counties had wanted.
"That's what we are aiming for," said Mike Tauber of Hackensack in Hubbard County.
He led the citizen petition drive asking for the environmental study and got 115 citizens to sign the petition, which only needed 100 names to make the request to the DNR.
Tauber said a similar petition by a blogging group called Toxic Taters had more than 700 names three years ago when it was eventually rejected by Naramore and her team of experts.
Tauber believes the "chemical train" caused by farmland fertilizers and pesticides that he said is affecting the pine forest region is something that eventually will affect the entire nation. ...
We'll have more about this story as news comes in.
Read more about the drama in our earlier posts:
Photo: New potatoes from our garden. The straw mulch worked to deter potato bugs, while encouraging insect helpers.
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