Lake associations sue DNR for not stopping lake invadersRepresentatives of three western Twin Cities lakes – Lotus, Bavaria and Christmas – have filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. They are seeking action to prevent the spread of zebra mussels with claims DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr has not established a statewide program to prevent and curb the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) as Minnesota statutes require.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
Representatives of three western Twin Cities lakes – Lotus, Bavaria and Christmas – have filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
They are seeking action to prevent the spread of zebra mussels with claims DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr has not established a statewide program to prevent and curb the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) as Minnesota statutes require.
According to the suit, the city of Chanhassen is also a defendant because "it effectively allows its land to be used in the spread of zebra mussels into Lotus Lake."
An April 4 court date for the lawsuit is scheduled in Carver County.
Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA) Vice President Terry Kalil reacted to the news by saying it’s “a sad day for all Minnesotans” when ordinary citizens have to spend their own money and time to pursue legal action against the state and DNR for not protecting public waters.
“Instead, we have a patchwork effort headed by local COLAs and lake association volunteers on a county-by-county basis,” Kalil said.
He added that the only effective approach to stopping the spread of zebra mussels must be implemented at the state level.
“The DNR has the final authority to mandate inspections, allocate a portion of their $900 million budget to AIS efforts, hire the personnel, and educate the public while enforcing the law,” Kalil said. “What we've seen to date is that while the number of infested waters increases, the DNR deployed only three decontamination units for the whole state in 2011.”
Kalil noted that in one of the two cases where an individual was prosecuted for transporting zebra mussels into an Otter Tail County lake, the state was only able to impose a $1,000 fine.
“What is the value of a lake?” Kalil asked. “To the Minnesota DNR with its paltry $7.5 million AIS allocation, that's about $750/lake; clearly not enough to protect one of the key economic drivers in our state.”
Kalil said his lake association expects that the DNR will try to blame the Legislature for not giving it more money for programs. But he added that it's not just money that's needed right now – “it's better policy, better strategy and better allocation of resources.”
Kalil said he hopes the lawsuit will result in developing a statewide AIS plan before the list of infested waters gets any longer.
“For years the DNR has told us they're ‘ramping up’ on zebra mussels. The time to stop ramping up was years ago,” he said. “The time to act is right now.”
Douglas County leaders and lake associations continue to grapple with the problem of zebra mussels. At its meeting next Tuesday, the county commissioners will consider accepting a DNR grant that would hire five watercraft inspectors and purchase a pickup truck for inspections.