The Minong Flowage could be included in a proposed state administrative rule to regulate the dates when wild rice can be harvested.

The county’s land and development committee approved on Tuesday, Oct. 26, allowing county-owned land in the flowage to be included in the proposed rule.

Privately-owned land within the Minong Flowage would not be affected by the rule, said Jason Fleener of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“It’s one of the more significant wild rice waters in the state,” Fleener said of the Minong Flowage. “Our harvest surveys indicate somewhere in the top 10 or top 20 harvestable waters in the state, so there’s an interest in adding that to the list.”

The survey revealed 195 pounds of wild rice harvested from the flowage in 2020, with only about one-third of harvesters participating in the survey, Fleener said. He estimated the actual yield to be 500-1,000 pounds of rice.

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Under the proposed rule change, a few waterways would be added for date regulated harvests including Chippewa Lake in Bayfield County, Pacwawong Lake in Sawyer County and Island Lake in Vilas County. Many more would be eliminated, including Allouez Bay in Superior and all waterways currently regulated in Ashland and Polk counties.

“We have approximately 300-400 waters in northern Wisconsin that have wild rice that we are aware of,” Fleener said. “It’s a valuable resource that’s unique to the upper Midwest.”

Under the proposed administrative rule change, Fleener said only about 20 waterways will be regulated, down from the 60 currently subject to the rule.

The goal of date regulating the harvest is to ensure wild rice isn’t harvested prematurely, putting the resource in jeopardy.

Date-regulated harvests typically take place over a couple weeks in late-August and early-September and the area has to be posted before the harvest begins, Fleener said.

Supervisor Charlie Glazman questioned who would be responsible for enforcing the rule.

Fleener said that responsibility falls to the DNR and tribal wardens.

Once the new rule is finalized by a joint wild rice committee, it would be subject to the rule-making process, which would include public hearings, and going through the natural resources board and a legislative process.

Fleener said it would likely be 2023 before the new rule is in place.

“If we give this concurrence, can we give it a sunset clause … so if it isn’t working out, we can look at it again?” Supervisor Keith Allen asked.

“Every three to five years, we’ll revisit the rule to either add or remove waterways,” Fleener said. “So, if there are any specific concerns, we can address it in a few years.”

The land and development committee gave concurrence to adding the Minong Flowage to the rule with the provision that it be reviewed again in a few years.

The Douglas County Board will consider the proposal Nov. 18.