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Misinformation threatens Spring Valley Ponds


Fri, Jul 14th, 2006
Posted in Commentary

A front-page story in the June 12th edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press addressed my efforts to turn an old hatchery into a world-class fish farm and park and detailed many of the state permitting issues that have put the project on hold. In the article, I admitted to starting the project without some of the permits needed to get from the state. That was a big mistake.

But Jeff Broberg, president of The Minnesota Trout Association and the main critic of the project had harsh words for me in the article. Hes an intentional violator, Broberg charged.

Broberg must be a mind reader. How does he know what my intent was? I would never knowingly violate the law. For the past 18 months, Ive been working with the regulators and I paid my fines so I could start moving ahead, but he wont let this rest. Im still working with the agencies to get my remaining permits approved. Ive cooperated with them on every information request.

This type of inflammatory rhetoric is just a continuation of a long-standing misinformation campaign being waged by Broberg and MTA secretary, Mel Haugstad. The pair have been a powerful one-two punch in convincing the DNR to put up an endless series of roadblocks to reopening Spring Valley Ponds. Because Broberg recently served on the DNRs Budget Oversight Committee, the DNR gives his objections more weight than they deserve. Haugstad formerly was the DNR fisheries manager for the portion of southeastern Minnesota where the farm is located.

Broberg and Haugstad apparently would like to see a pristine stream with no development whatsoever, but their opposition is based on erroneous or deliberately misleading information. Here are a few examples of the misinformation they have provided to regulators, the legislature, the press and other outdoor groups:

At the April 19th meeting of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, Broberg testified that Spring Valley Creek (into which water from the facility is discharged) is a Blue-Ribbon trout stream. But in a letter recently posted on the Trout Unlimited web site, Haugstad said, it [Spring Valley Creek] naturally is a very warm stream with borderline summer temperatures for trout. Similarly, in the write-up of a survey he did on Spring Valley Creek in 1987, he noted that water temperatures were marginal for trout in most of Spring Valley Creek during an exceptionally hot summer. Brobergs characterization of the stream is not only a blatant exaggeration; it is an obvious attempt to sway committee members toward his position.

In other testimony at the April 19th meeting, Broberg said that the farm had not been operated since the late 1970s, implying that this meant the hatchery license should no longer be valid. But Haugstads 1987 survey write-up clearly shows the facility was operating at least up to that time. In reporting on his fish sampling, he said, all the trout in sector 2 had recently escaped from the Spring Valley Trout Farm. In fact, the hatchery license was current at the time I bought the property in 2003 and the DNR transferred it to me.

In his 1987 survey report, Haugstad indicated there were two springs at the facility and he listed water temperatures at the source and mouth for each one. But since there is only one spring at the facility, he could not have made these measurements. While this may seem like an innocent mistake, Haugstads data has been used by the DNR to establish temperature requirements that cannot possibly be met if the farm is to operate profitably. At an April 27th meeting intended to resolve the temperature issue, Fisheries Chief Ron Payer admitted that he used Haugstads data to establish a maximum discharge temperature of 55F, lower than the 58 temperature Payer set a year earlier, also based on Haugstads earlier recommendation.

In a May 1 press release from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), Broberg said that escape of such unusual breeds as albino, black and yellow rainbow trout could be detrimental to the trout population of Spring Valley Creek. He gave similar testimony at the April 19th meeting of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. He stated that while on an inspection visit to the facility, he saw odd fish including a pond full of rainbow trout white as a piece of paper Ive never seen anything like that. Another pond of black rainbow trout black as the night you couldnt see em hardly in the water. While I legally raise golden rainbows at the facility, I have never raised the white or black rainbows that Broberg described.

It is clear that Broberg and Haugstad do not have their facts straight and cannot even agree on their message. Yet their writings and testimony are given great weight by the DNR and are incorrectly influencing public opinion. While the DNR knows that many of the contentions of Broberg and Haugstad are not true, the DNR is giving them undue credence because of the influence the pair have over trout organizations and environmental groups. We have heard that these groups have threatened the DNR with legal action unless they stop the Spring Valley Ponds project.

For more information on Spring Valley Ponds go to www.springvalleyponds.com/

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