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Citizens committee to tackle zebra mussels threat

Zebra mussels are creating a huge problem for the lakes area and the tiny little aquatic invasive species are spreading.

However, as persistent as the zebra mussels are, there's a group of residents equally determined to eliminate their crusty sub-surface existence.

On Tuesday, the Douglas County Board established a citizens committee and appointed Bonnie Huettl, Lois Sinn Lindquist and Carl Towley to serve.

The trio will address zebra mussels' infestation and threat to area lakes.

Huettl, Lindquist and Towley were at Tuesday's county board meeting when they were appointed on the spot.

The committee's primary focus is providing county commissioners with information and options to stop the spread of, and possibly eradicate, zebra mussels.

During Tuesday's board meeting, a comment from Lindquist prompted commissioners to start the committee; she said, "This is a complex problem that I don't think you should have to deal with by yourselves. I'd ask that you consider creating a committee... so that the board is not stuck with the matter."

Huettl said she has attended county board meetings over the last two years, working to steer commissioners' attention to the zebra mussel threat.

Huettl is president of the Douglas County Lake Association and she told the Echo Press, "I'm ecstatic. I think we've finally got their attention."

Lindquist said she's excited to be part of the citizens committee.

"This comes at an important time and I think we need to try to keep the intensity going," she said. "For the first time I feel like we have a chance to do something."

Huettl told commissioners Tuesday that they will likely be asked to support some radical zebra mussel containment ideas, including closing boat accesses.

"We have to do something radical, otherwise [zebra mussels] will spread," Huettl said.

Dave Rush, director of the county's Land and Resource Management office, said he's excited to see the county taking action.

"An opportunity for a citizens committee to bring information to the board makes sense. This will be viable for Douglas County," he said. "Any effort made will directly affect property owners and visitors."

Mussels prompt channel [AC1]re-opening

Before the citizens committee was established Tuesday, the board voted to lift the ban on boat traffic between lakes Geneva and Victoria. The action was prompted by the DNR's report confirming that Lake Victoria is also infested with zebra mussels. Last fall the DNR reported the zebra mussels had made their way into Lake Victoria.

Last year, the county closed the channel between lakes Geneva and Victoria, intending to stop or limit the spread of zebra mussels to Lake Victoria.

Huettl told commissioners, "I hope the public doesn't see this as an end to addressing the zebra mussel problem here in Douglas County; this is just the beginning."

[AC1]The last section of the story may be deleted - depends on what's done with the "County- channel reopens-Echo" article also set to run in this issue... check with Al.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133