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Shrimp of various sizes are on display in a tank in the development offices of Tru Shrimp in this May 2017 photo. Mikkel Pates / Forum News Service

Lawmakers fault state regulators for trū Shrimp's move to South Dakota

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota lawmakers on Wednesday, Jan. 16, faulted state pollution control agents with setting up regulatory burdens that prevented a shrimp farming company from building its first facility in Luverne.

State legislators asked Minnesota Pollution Control Agency officials about the interactions they'd had with trū Shrimp, an indoor shrimp farming company, and pressed them to relax burdensome regulations that they felt derailed a $48 million project in Luverne. Pollution control agents, meanwhile, said they'd worked to get the project off the ground and were surprised when trū Shrimp officials said they'd build elsewhere.

Trū Shrimp earlier this month announced that it would break ground on its first 'harbor' in Madison, S.D., rather than in Luverne as company heads had previously planned. The news frustrated city and state officials and raised questions about whether the company would still move ahead with the Luverne project.

Company executives at the time said they wouldn't have been able to push forward with a summer break-ground date under Minnesota pollution management requirements and financial incentives from South Dakota helped lure them across the border.

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday urged people not to rush to judgment about what influenced the company's decision to build its first facility outside Minnesota.

“Wait until further information is gathered on this one,” Walz said. “I think it’s irresponsible at this point in time before all the facts are gathered to tell people here that this is not a place to do business. We are a place to do business.”

At issue was a wastewater treatment plant permit application, which agents said was submitted in September. The agency, the city and company were working on getting proper permits in place that would let the plant treat its water and release it to the Luverne wastewater treatment facility.

But letters between city and agency officials indicate that meeting the company's proposed summer construction date was going to be difficult. And both camps were surprised to learn the company opted to build its inaugural plant in South Dakota, despite ongoing talks about building in Minnesota.

"We were also very dismayed about the news of trū Shrimp moving their initial harbor from the city of Luverne," Shannon Lotthammer, the agency's assistant commissioner, said. "We understand they're still looking at the city of Luverne, just not for this first harbor."

Minnesota lawmakers' frustration was apparent as they reviewed the state's pollution control policies. And they urged agents to roll back policies that weren't proven to improve water or air quality.

“There is nobody in my area that wants bad water, “ Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, told agencies officials testifying before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural resources Finance. “But we also want our communities to move forward and to thrive and, quite frankly, you are standing in the way.”