Michele Bachmann wants St. Croix River cut from Wild and Scenic Rivers protection


Michele Bachmann, who readily admitted recently that she hasn't introduced any major legislation in Congress, may do just that.

She wants to lop a chunk of the St. Croix River off its protected status under the Wild and Scenic Act so that a $668.5 million bridge span can be built to divert traffic away from Stillwater and its aging lift bridge. And she says she going to introduce legislation in Congress to accomplish that.

A judge stalled the latest plans for the bridge, which go back decades, when he declared the National Park Service broke federal law in approving the most recent design.

Bachmann, at a press conference in downtown Stillwater, said the ruling on the law was "judicial activism."

St. Croix Valley Sierra Club spokesperson Jim Rickard applauded the judge's ruling and pointed out that his organization was not opposed to all bridges - just this bridge.

"This specific bridge proposal fails to meet residents' needs, and would harm the high quality features that define the value of our wild and scenic river. The lives of thousands of people revolve around the St. Croix because of the quality of life," he said in a statement following the ruling. "Now we have an opportunity to get it right."

Bah, Bachmann said

"I will be introducing legislation later this week that would permit the construction of the Bridge," she said at a press conference yesterday. "If passed, this would render Thursday's ruling irrelevant."

Bachmann says she's also asking Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis to appeal the court decision.

"This bridge has received set-back after set-back. Its path was bound to be troubled when Senator Mondale introduced legislation to include the river as part of the National Wild and Scenic Waterways Act, created to protect wild and untouched riverways," she asserted. "Stillwater is, after all, the birthplace of Minnesota and many of the structures and buildings were here 100 years before 1972, the year the legislation was approved."

Fact check: The actual law says nothing about "untouched riverways." And Stillwater, with its historic and cultural importance, fits right in:

Certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

We'll see how Bachmann's threat works out. After all, this is the congresswoman who regularly derides Democrats in Congress and the White House as socialists and thugs. Would they be happy to support her bill?

Walter Mondale thinks not. The former vice president helped author the original Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968 when he was a senator. The section from Taylor's Falls to Prescott, Wis., was added in 1972.

He told the Pioneer Press he was "almost positive" that nothing would happen to Bachmann's bill.

"If we hadn't passed that bill when we did, I think the entire character of that river would be changed. It would be built up, it would be crowded, there would be no restraint on the overuse of the river."