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Lawmakers beginning to hear the commotion over aquatic invasive species

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- The din from lake country about the need to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species may have finally been heard in St. Paul.

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Rep. Bruce Vogel on Tuesday told the Kandiyohi County commissioners that aquatic invasive species has gotten the attention of legislators and that additional funding could be allocated this year.

Kandiyohi County has been involved with efforts to prevent invasives, especially zebra mussels, from getting into area lakes.

There's also concern that Asian carp could make it into local rivers.

Commissioner Dennis Peterson, who has been a leader in local and state efforts to address invasive species, attended a recent statewide roundtable on aquatic invasive species. He said the Department of Natural Resources is stepping up enforcement and prevention projects but that stiffer penalties for violating rules and additional state funds are needed to protect lakes from environmental and economic disaster.

He said there are currently 60 lakes in Minnesota contaminated with zebra mussels.

Peterson urged Vogel to work with legislators to increase funding to fight invasive species and to increase penalties for people who don't follow state laws and transport zebra mussels from infected lakes to clean lakes.

Peterson said the Legislature did increase fines last year from $50 to $100 but that's not enough for actions that can cost communities millions of dollars in lost economic development money if popular sandy beaches are infested with razor-sharp zebra mussels.

He said increasing the price of fishing licenses is another way to raise money to fight invasive species that has the support of fishing groups.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said legislators need to "get off the stool" regarding their stand on "no increases on anything" and look at fighting invasive species as an "investment."

Vogel, R-Willmar, who attended the county board meeting prior to the start of the 2012 legislative session that begins Tuesday, said now that some metro lakes are infested with zebra mussels, metro lawmakers are paying attention to the problem and might be more willing to approve additional funding and harsher penalties for violators.

"It's definitely on our radar," said Vogel, who attended a statewide meeting on invasive species last weekend in Detroit Lakes that attracted about 400 people, including about a dozen lawmakers.

Vogel said legislators will consider using $6 million from the Legacy fund to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. But along with action to stop the spread of invasive species, he said he expects some state funding will go to the University of Minnesota to research biological ammunition to kill zebra mussels.

Peterson was skeptical of that idea, saying it took 27 years to develop a product that kills zebra mussels in swimming pools. Experiments have shown it doesn't work in lakes, he said.

Vogel indicated he'd support other efforts to get funding for invasive species. He said hunters can lose their guns and vehicles and pay hefty fines for shooting a deer out of season, so it makes sense to increase fines for contaminating lakes with invasive species.

Peterson said a small surcharge on boats could also help bring in additional money to fight invasive species. He said local lake associations have been using their own money to educate the public and set up de-contamination sites.

Meanwhile, Vogel said he expects GOP lawmakers to support a bonding bill in the range of $400 to $500 million for "shovel ready" projects. Gov. Dayton's proposal called for $775 million in spending.

Vogel told the Commissioners not to expect the Homestead Tax Credit to return, but said efforts will likely be made to tweak the current program to reduce the financial burden that was shifted to commercial property owners.

Shuck said that relief should also be extended to farmers, who've seen property taxes increase.

Vogel said he hopes the Legislature will take

In other action, Peterson formally announced that he would not file for re-election after representing district 4 for 20 years and spending 55 years in elected office. Because the district is the "fastest growing" in population Peterson said the look of the district will change after re-districting is complete. He briefly discussed some of the highlights of his tenure on the board, including traveling to Washington, D.C., and testifying at the state Capitol but said "everybody is replaceable" and that it was time for him to retire. "It's been a good ride," said Peterson.

Madsen praised Peterson for his leadership, mentorship and "sense of community."

In other action:

n Commissioners approved tax abatements for several properties, including commercial buildings in Atwater that were destroyed in a fire.

n Agreed to continue studying a proposal to merge its public health jurisdiction with Renville County to create one community health board. The study will continue for the next six months.

WILLMAR -- The din from lake country about the need to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species may have finally been heard in St. Paul.

Rep. Bruce Vogel on Tuesday told the Kandiyohi County commissioners that aquatic invasive species has gotten the attention of legislators and that additional funding could be allocated this year.

Kandiyohi County has been involved with efforts to prevent invasives, especially zebra mussels, from getting into area lakes.

There's also concern that Asian carp could make it into local rivers.

Commissioner Dennis Peterson, who has been a leader in local and state efforts to address invasive species, attended a recent statewide roundtable on aquatic invasive species. He said the Department of Natural Resources is stepping up enforcement and prevention projects but that stiffer penalties for violating rules and additional state funds are needed to protect lakes from environmental and economic disaster.

He said there are currently 60 lakes in Minnesota contaminated with zebra mussels.

Peterson urged Vogel to work with legislators to increase funding to fight invasive species and to increase penalties for people who don't follow state laws and transport zebra mussels from infected lakes to clean lakes.

Peterson said the Legislature did increase fines last year from $50 to $100 but that's not enough for actions that can cost communities millions of dollars in lost economic development money if popular sandy beaches are infested with razor-sharp zebra mussels.

He said increasing the price of fishing licenses is another way to raise money to fight invasive species that has the support of fishing groups.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said legislators need to "get off the stool" regarding their stand on "no increases on anything" and look at fighting invasive species as an "investment."

Vogel, R-Willmar, who attended the county board meeting prior to the start of the 2012 legislative session that begins Tuesday, said now that some metro lakes are infested with zebra mussels, metro lawmakers are paying attention to the problem and might be more willing to approve additional funding and harsher penalties for violators.

"It's definitely on our radar," said Vogel, who attended a statewide meeting on invasive species last weekend in Detroit Lakes that attracted about 400 people, including about a dozen lawmakers.

Vogel said legislators will consider using $6 million from the Legacy fund to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. But along with action to stop the spread of invasive species, he said he expects some state funding will go to the University of Minnesota to research biological ammunition to kill zebra mussels.

Peterson was skeptical of that idea, saying it took 27 years to develop a product that kills zebra mussels in swimming pools. Experiments have shown it doesn't work in lakes, he said.

Vogel indicated he'd support other efforts to get funding for invasive species. He said hunters can lose their guns and vehicles and pay hefty fines for shooting a deer out of season, so it makes sense to increase fines for contaminating lakes with invasive species.

Peterson said a small surcharge on boats could also help bring in additional money to fight invasive species. He said local lake associations have been using their own money to educate the public and set up de-contamination sites.

Meanwhile, Vogel said he expects GOP lawmakers to support a bonding bill in the range of $400 to $500 million for "shovel ready" projects. Gov. Dayton's proposal called for $775 million in spending.

Vogel told the Commissioners not to expect the Homestead Tax Credit to return, but said efforts will likely be made to tweak the current program to reduce the financial burden that was shifted to commercial property owners.

Shuck said that relief should also be extended to farmers, who've seen property taxes increase.

Vogel said he hopes the Legislature will take

In other action, Peterson formally announced that he would not file for re-election after representing district 4 for 20 years and spending 55 years in elected office. Because the district is the "fastest growing" in population Peterson said the look of the district will change after re-districting is complete. He briefly discussed some of the highlights of his tenure on the board, including traveling to Washington, D.C., and testifying at the state Capitol but said "everybody is replaceable" and that it was time for him to retire. "It's been a good ride," said Peterson.

Madsen praised Peterson for his leadership, mentorship and "sense of community."

In other action:

- Commissioners approved tax abatements for several properties, including commercial buildings in Atwater that were destroyed in a fire.

- Agreed to continue studying a proposal to merge its public health jurisdiction with Renville County to create one community health board. The study will continue for the next six months.

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