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Straight River: Do You Want Trout with Your Fries?
(pg 6 of 8)

The DNR had been caught unprepared for the avalanche of water appropriation applications that preceded the lawsuit, said Bob Merritt, a staff hydrologist in Detroit Lakes. Unable to prove that irrigation would affect the Straight, the agency had little cause to deny permits. Now, nearly all the land along the lower river is fully irrigated, he said. Currently, the DNR is most concerned with applications to sink wells along the upper Straight and a tributary, which harbor cold-loving brook trout and are probably more vulnerable to fluctuations in the groundwater supply. "We have become much more careful," he said.

To better contend with requests to draw water, the DNR has installed continuous recorders to obtain reliable baseline information about streamflow and temperature. That information will help the DNR demonstrate if new or proposed irrigation will affect the river. "That's technically a difficult thing to do," Merritt said. But without that proof, the DNR cannot effectively withhold permits. Nonetheless, the agency has been able to persuade Offutt to withdraw applications for wells near the upper Straight. The DNR is also requiring pump tests before issuing permits that might affect the river.

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