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Bill would create 5-year boat ramps moratorium

ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans hoping to cast lines in lakes that currently lack boat access might be out of luck for a few years.

Lawmakers are considering Senate and House bills that prevent the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources from building public access ramps on waters that don't already have them. The five-year moratorium would give the DNR, citizens and other stakeholders time to find ways to prevent the introduction and spread of exotic species into lakes, said Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake.

Local interest groups should participate, he said, because strategies that work at one lake might not at another.

Garry Leaf, executive director of Sportsmen for Change, thinks the bill will be a tough sell among fishing enthusiasts in part because invasive species enter lakes in many ways.

"People who look at it will cast a suspicious eye on lakes that are pushing it," he said. "Are they really against invasive species or are they trying to keep the public off their lake?"

Dill acknowledged the many ways these species enter the water but added that boating is a major one. He said private land owners have not contacted him "in a 'not in my backyard' way."

DNR officials, he said, have testified that they only build a couple boat ramps each year anyway. The bill wouldn't prevent them from building new ramps on lakes that already have access but need more.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, supports the moratorium. He said he was shocked recently to learn there was little to no regulation of boat ramp access points.

"We've got access points on lakes ... where anybody can dump any boat in whether it's got contaminants on it or not and basically DNR has nothing to say or do about it," he said. "I was appalled, frankly."

Andrew Tellijohn reports for Forum Communications Co.