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DNR Assessment of Proposal to Extract and Ship Water by Rail to Southwest States

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

On October 2, 2019, the DNR received a request for a preliminary well construction assessment. That assessment is one precursor to the issuance of a water appropriation permit, which would allow the extraction of groundwater. The request indicates that Empire Builder Investments, a company based in Lakeville, seeks to extract up to 500 million gallons of water per year from two proposed wells on the northern edge of Randolph, MN. The intent would be to ship the extracted groundwater by rail and then sell it in western states, similarly to the process used by this company.

In a letter regarding a preliminary assessment of the proposal dated November 1, DNR staff stated that it is unlikely the project could be authorized under state law. The letter recommends that the requestor not spend additional time working on the project. In a press release also dated November 1, DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen stated that "[b]ased on our initial review of the Empire Builder request, we are notifying the company today that we see virtually no scenario where the DNR would grant a water appropriation permit for the project, as it does not appear it could meet applicable statutory requirements, including significant restrictions on use of the Mt. Simon aquifer."

Additional information is available via coverage provided by the the Star Tribune (10/31 story; 11/2 story), MPR News (11/1 story; 11/5 story), and Sun ThisWeek.

Update: At its meeting on Tuesday, November 12, Dakota County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Board Chair Workman to issue a letter to the DNR "opposing any bulk exportation of Dakota County groundwater." On December 13 the Star Tribune published an opinion piece authored by Commissioner Atkins and Commissioner Slavik articulating their opposition to any similar proposal as well as proposing changes to "state laws to provide more local control over groundwater-tapping schemes like this, in light of the potentially dire consequences for local communities and their residents."

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