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Kandiyohi County formalizes advisory committee for AIS prevention efforts

WILLMAR –– If legislation receives final approval, Kandiyohi County could get nearly $257,000 in new county program aid next year specifically for the purpose of preventing the introduction or limiting the spread of aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels.

The funding would be good news for the county, which has been working with an informal committee made up of lake associations, environmental and sporting groups, law enforcement and the Department of Natural Resources to implement education and prevention programs with a combination of county funds and grants.

The county has dedicated $15,000 to its aquatic invasive species efforts along with about $20,000 for enforcement of the related rules.

The Legislature is considering a $10 million county program aid allocation for 2015 that would be shared between counties just for aquatic invasive species programs.

The amount of funding each county would receive is based on a formula of the number of boat landings and the number of parking spots for boat trailers.

Under that formula, Kandiyohi County could receive $256,937 next year.

Even if the funding is for just one year, it would be a “nice amount of money compared to the amount we’ve had to scratch for,” said Commissioner Roger Imdieke.

Meeker County would get $247,882; Lac qui Parle County – $44,117; Yellow Medicine County – $43,127; Chippewa County – $36,202; Swift County – $35,465; and Renville County – $19,661.

In order to be prepared if the funding is approved, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners took action Tuesday to establish a formal standing committee that would serve as an advisory board for establishing guidelines of how to allocate funds for projects.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl said counties must adopt a formal plan by resolution, with program guidelines in place for how to use the funds.

Developing that plan will be one of the first jobs of the committee.

He said he envisioned the committee functioning like the county’s water resource planning committee, which hears requests for funding for water improvement projects and then makes recommendations to the County Board for final approval.

He suggested that the committee have 11 or 13 members and include two commissioners, as well as representatives from the soil and water conservation district, area watershed entities, lake associations, sports groups, DNR and people in the business of installing and removing docks.

The county will send letters to the different groups requesting recommendations for committee members.

Kleindl said even if the bill does not pass in the Legislature, establishing a formal county committee dedicated to taking action on aquatic invasive species is “the right thing to do.”

He said that will keep the issue in the public eye and before the County Board.

Chairman Jim Butterfield said the problem of aquatic invasive species “has to be attacked” but there are currently “pockets here and there” of groups taking action.  

Having an official county committee will help unify the community in its efforts to prevent and fight aquatic invasive species.

Imdieke said there is a “lot of passion” to do something, but that “not everybody agrees what the right approach is.”

Imdieke said having a formal committee may not make that process any easier, but it will help advance efforts.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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