Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Confronting the Monster

In the past several months, I have taken readers through a step-wise process of articulating the Lake Minnetonka Association’s vision, strategy and plan for ridding Lake Minnetonka of milfoil and keeping additional unwanted plants, animals and viruses out of the lake – summed up in or “Milfoil-Free Minnetonka” campaign.

Our role is to be advocates for the interests of lakeshore owners and businesses, consistent with our mission to assure the health of Lake Minnetonka. The Lake Minnetonka Association is devoted to thought-leadership and in this role we have invested in bringing sound science and credible policy to the fore to address the threats of aquatic invasive species, or AIS.

So, while we can go to great lengths to develop and articulate action plans, it is not our role to implement those plans. With respect to AIS management, various agencies are charged with protecting and managing Lake Minnetonka. As advocates, we see our role to move the ball forward by holding public and private entities accountable and responsible. We provide constructive criticism where appropriate, but also offer workable solutions. We are boldly confronting the AIS monster.

Our Milfoil-Free Minnetonka campaign offers a vision, comprehensive strategy and detailed plan. We go into this with the sincere belief that the health and integrity of Lake Minnetonka is important to our community and therefore investments in protecting and restoring the lake are appropriate. With community support, we sincerely believe we can rid Lake Minnetonka of milfoil and keep other AIS out.

Without this support, here is where we stand:

- We have developed a lake vegetation management plan that allows for comprehensive milfoil control, but have not received broad community buy-in, although Lake Minnetonka lakeshore residents have demonstrated they will shoulder their share. While there has been support for the first year (see below), future support is not certain. Where are the cities, the LMCD and the state with their proportionate shares?

- The LMCD has contracted video monitors at two of the dozen or so launches on the lake, and their board was recently shown videos by these monitors of two cases that I believe are violations of state law and of the LMCD ordinance. To my knowledge, no follow up or enforcement action has been taken or is being contemplated. Where is enforcement?

- If hydrilla gets into Lake Minnetonka, the harvesting program would be forced to be suspended indefinitely to prevent spreading this nasty plant. What are the contingency plans for hydrilla (and zebra mussel, VHS, spiny waterflea, etc.)?

- Lake Minnetonka lacks a comprehensive prevention plan, an early detection & rapid response plan, adequate funding, adequate enforcement, and (apparently) the will to confront AIS. The Lake Minnetonka Association’s Milfoil-Free Minnetonka plan provides for all of this and we offer it as a way road map to address these concerns. The opposite of planning is fate. Without community support, we are tempting fate.

Community support is needed. Further, financing the Milfoil-Free Minnetonka plan ought to be spread among lake residents, the cities around the lake, state and regional sources and lake users.

Lake residents have already demonstrated their willingness through the first year of the three bay milfoil treatments. The Cities of Mound, Shorewood and Minnetrista supported the first year of the Phelps Bay treatment and we hope they will continue that support. The LMCD, through the Save-the-Lake fund, supported the first year of the three bay treatment and we hope they will continue that support. The Minnesota DNR provided a grant, and we have argued, based on the size of the lake and overall usage, that Lake Minnetonka should demand even higher levels of support in the future. Finally, lake users ought to shoulder some of the support. Right now, boaters pay a boat license surcharge and only a small portion of that comes back to Lake Minnetonka. We believe fees based on use are appropriate and should be implemented.

While confronting the AIS monster is a serious challenge, we believe we can slay this monster by brood community support and spreading the financing equitably.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill.

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