Lutsen bill pits anglers against alpine skiers

A proposal before the Minnesota Legislature would allow Lutsen Mountains ski resort to bypass Department of Natural Resource regulations and pump two million gallons of water per day from the Poplar River. A company official says it’s the most economically feasible way to make artificial snow, but anglers say it threatens trout on the river. Environmentalists suggest pumping the water from Lake Superior, a suggestion Lutsen rejects as too costly.

The Senate Finance Committee will entertain the proposal this week according to the Duluth News Tribune.

Steve Persons, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Grand Marais, said river freeze-out during low water in winter months, called anchor ice, could hurt the river’s populations of brook trout, rainbow trout, salmon and “coaster” brook trout that migrate into the river from Lake Superior.

“Allowing large appropriations of water during a low-flow period could increase the severity and frequency of anchor ice, and that certainly limits habitat for fish and the ecosystem they depend on,” Persons said.

He said the effects of past water use to make snow at Lutsen is unclear.

“We don’t have this situation with any other trout stream because it’s something we don’t allow,” Persons said.

Even without passage of the bill, Senate File 1244, Lutsen has circumvented DNR regulations for years according the the News Tribune.

Lutsen Mountains Corp. began violating the permit in 2001, pumping between 60 and 107 million gallons each snowmaking season since. While DNR officials have known about the violations since 2002, the agency has taken no action against the company.

John Lenczewski, executive director of Minnesota Trout Unlimited wrote on his organizations blog that Lutsen Mountain Corporation’s “excessive water withdrawals from the Poplar River since 2001 are outside the permit. This conduct should not be rewarded with a special exemption permitting it to destroy a public resource.”

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