In response to a citizen petition, The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced July 23 that it will require an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for the RD Offutt Continued Potato Field Expansion Project in the pineland sands area of central Minnesota, which includes portions of Cass, Hubbard, Becker Otter Tail, Todd, Crow Wing, Morrison and Wadena counties.

RD Offutt is the largest potato grower in the US, with farms in seven states, growing potatoes for the frozen and fresh market. It has extensive potato farms in the Park Rapids area.  

In a letter to RD Offutt and citizen petition representative Mike Tauber, who lives in rural Backus near the pineland sands area, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr stated, “We have reviewed the evidence provided in the petition and other information known to DNR and other state agencies.

“This included information provided by the RD Offutt Company. We evaluated this information relative to the relevant criteria under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and we have determined that your pending water appropriation applications within the Pineland Sands Area may have the potential for significant cumulative environmental effects, due to potential nitrate contamination of groundwater.

“Having reached this conclusion, the DNR must, under MEPA, grant the Petition. Therefore ... you are hereby notified that the DNR will be ordering an EAW for the proposed RD Offutt ... Project on or after Aug. 6, 2018.

In a July 25 email to The Pilot-Independent and other media, Tauber thanked everyone who provided information to be included in the petition and those who provided “inspiration” for the decision.

“Like all successful efforts, there has been an abundance of good people at work on this issue. I ... very much appreciate the willingness to share expertise.”

Tauber said he feels the next step will be to work for an Environmental Impact Statement.

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