Most of us are eager and happy to see local businesses succeed and do well. Healthy businesses mean healthy economies and healthy, robust communities with more opportunities for all.
But how much are we willing to sacrifice for that? Are we willing to lose a trout stream or other natural resources and assets that, really, belong to all of us?
Such questions suddenly are swirling around the popular Lutsen Mountains ski resort, Cook County’s wintertime economic engine. A report on Monday revealed that for years the resort pumped as much as eight times the amount of water it was legally allowed to from a trout stream to make snow and to extend its money-making ski seasons. A permit allowed Lutsen to take up to 12.6 million gallons annually from the Poplar River. Last year it sucked up more than 100 million gallons.
And what did the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources do about it? Not a darn thing.
OK, that’s not completely accurate; the DNR — the same khaki-wearing body that’ll bust you and me for having an extra fishing line in the water — “chose to negotiate with the company,” as Minnesota Public Radio reported. And kept on negotiating even as “the company continued to increase the amount of water it took from the stream.”
And not just any stream, but a trout stream important as a spawning habitat, according to Steve Persons, a DNR fisheries supervisor from Grand Marais. Steelhead trout, salmon and the rare native coaster brook trout all use the Poplar River and other North Shore streams to reproduce, relying on their constant and consistent flows of water, even during winter months.
To its credit, the DNR acknowledges its oversight was a failure that may have threatened what should be a state-protected waterway.