Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Call to Action

I have found a copy of the Lake Minnetonka Association’s (then called the Lake Minnetonka Lakeshore Owners Association) first newsletter from the Spring of 1989. There were two presenting issues for the fledgling organization – property taxes (too high) and milfoil (too much). In the meantime, some relief has been provided for the issue of property taxes, but we still have too much milfoil.

What I find interesting is with this initial call to action, the LMLOA quickly engendered the support of lakeshore owners and businesses. The “From the Editor” column in the first newsletter said, “We have the opportunity to join with our friends and neighbors and make ourselves heard.”

The early LMLOA was effective because their call to action was heeded.

What I find interesting, is that the one issue they could not get on top of – milfoil – is still with us today. In the Association’s second newsletter (Fall 1989), there was already agency positioning reported with respect to milfoil control. JoEllen Hurr, then chair of the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District, along with Gene Strommen, LMCD Executive Director, provided an update on the new harvesting program, but were cautious regarding expectations. Dick Gray of the Freshwater Foundation urged against using chemicals to control milfoil because they would cause water quality problems, then recommended harvesting because it removed nutrients. Clarkson Lindley of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, explained the jurisdiction of the District and their responsibilities – basically, that milfoil is not their problem.

We now know the limits of harvesting and the fact that harvesting does not remove critical nutrients, and following last year’s milfoil demonstration project, that herbicides can safely control milfoil.

But really, even at that time, it was too late. The milfoil horse was out of the barn.

Here is my point – much of the LMLOA’s early success was a reaction to milfoil and their call to action was more a result of frustration than a realistic hope to eradicate milfoil. We were blind-sided by milfoil and a reactive response was all that was left.

But, were we blind-sided?

Milfoil had been in Wisconsin for 25 years at that time. Were we thinking it could not come here? The Freshwater Foundation hosted a milfoil forum in 1990 that brought in experts from around North America. Unfortunately, many of the eradication and containment strategies recommended by the experts were not embraced, poorly enforced or not adequately funded. The result – we now have milfoil in 200 Minnesota Lakes, which represents a rate of spread five-times greater than in Wisconsin in the early years.

So, what about now?

“On the Lake” editor Chris Lindstrom began her editor’s comments in the first newsletter: “The slow insidious process of political indifference …”

We have no excuse for being blind-sided with zebra mussel, viral hemorrhagic septicemia, hydrilla, spiny waterflea, incredible jumping (Asian) carp, blah, blah, blah (the list continues to grow). Our agencies and leaders charged with protecting our lakes also appear to have no stomach for the tough measures needed to assure permanent damage to our lake does not occur.

Our lakeshore is porous to the one known way these invades get into the lake – through boats and trailers. Our state-wide program relies almost exclusively on education and voluntary compliance, but we know that alone is not enough. At Lake Minnetonka, we have some inspectors and automatic monitors at some accesses at some times. There are no inspections at special events – events that often draw boats from out of state.

So, when we know ugly and harmful plants and animals are coming, we know how they get here, we know that once in the lake the damage will be substantial and irreversible, and we know that once in the lake there is no remedy – what should we do? Compare that with what we are doing.


Now is the time to be proactive. The Lake Minnetonka Association, in advocating for lakeshore owners and businesses has been and will continue to lead the charge. Please contact us to help.

** This was published as a Guest Editorial in Lakeshore Weekly News (August 2007)

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