County is urged to take action to prevent invasion of zebra mussels
WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County Commissioners were asked Tuesday to seek special legislation to become a pilot site for monitoring boat accesses to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, like zebra mussels.
Current law allows only the state to regulate public boat accesses.
During the five-year program, the county would obtain "power to share in the regulation" of state-owned lake accesses, said Ron Schneider, a member of the Green Lake Property Owners Association.
That shared power could include county sheriff's deputies inspecting boats at accesses, mandatory inspections prior to launch, training volunteers to conduct inspections, making sure bilge tanks are emptied in a buffer zone away from the lake, limiting the hours boat accesses are open and providing educational information about the risk of spreading invasive species.
Does Kandiyohi County "want to get in the business of protecting our waters" from invasive species and if so, "at what cost?" asked Schneider, adding that if preventative measures aren't taken, invasive species will arrive in the county "sooner rather than later."
Cost is the obvious issue.
County Administrator Larry Kleindl said the county will be involved and take some kind of action, but because of budget cuts, it would be difficult for counties to put direct dollars into a widespread monitoring process.
Kleindl said deputies could be trained to enforce current state laws while doing their regular road patrol, but he questioned having them stationed at boat accesses around the clock.
Commissioner Harlan Madsen also said he was "not going to support ordinances at this point in time" but agreed educational efforts need to be undertaken.
Chairman Richard Falk said education is important, "but if there's no enforcement, we're just kidding ourselves." He favors increased fines for offenders.
The Board of Commissioners agreed that funding from the county's water task force be accessed so that some kind of preventative action can be implemented before the 2010 boating season begins.
Money from the state's Legacy Fund may also be sought for long-term programs, including research into ways to eradicate aquatic invasive species.
Madsen said it would be better if the state spent money on protecting the resources it already has rather than to buy additional land for a state park -- a pet project of Gov. Pawlenty. The state has reached agreement to acquire land for a state park at Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota.