Sunday, December 19, 2010

Watershed-Wide AIS Management

The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is proposing to amend its management plan to establish an aquatic invasive species (AIS) control and management plan throughout Minnehaha Creek Watershed, which includes Lake Minnetonka. In light of discoveries of Zebra Mussels and Flowering Rush in our lake, this proposed program is aggressive, timely and needed – more AIS are coming. The Lake Minnetonka Association, which serves as the voice of Lake Minnetonka lakeshore owners and businesses, supports this idea.

The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is best suited to this task in the watershed as they have the needed financial resources and staff scientific expertise. The District has also demonstrated an awareness of and positive actions toward the ecological stewardship of our water resources.

According to the District, preventing the introduction and spread of invasive species is imperative due to the “irreversible damage they have on our lakes and streams, plants and fish and recreational, property and commercial value of our water resources.”

Specifically, the proposed plan amendment would allow the District to conduct a rulemaking process with possibility of requiring anyone wishing to place a watercraft, dock, boat ramp or other equipment in a lake to obtain a permit. The permit could require a demonstration that such placement of boats and equipment into a lake be free of AIS. The permits could require a fee. The District plan could also establish a District-wide inspection and decontamination system. Education and outreach would be elements of the plan as well.

The proposed plan amendment makes a case for and seeks authority to implement the most extreme measures; however, the particular implementation elements would be subject to a highly public rule-making process that would follow the proposed plan’s approval. Even though the final details will need to be developed, the proposed plan frames possible future rules.

There will be challenges to this proposal, particularly regarding the ‘legality’ of charging permit fees, especially for watercraft entering lakes. The District claims to have the legal authority to implement this plan. The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, the state oversight agency for watershed districts, will make the final determination regarding the adoption of the District’s plan amendment. As well, the Attorney General’s office will be weighing in on any legal aspects of this proposal.

There may be other concerns. For example, this is a state-wide problem, so the District’s plan is out of context. If this is a state-wide problem, we challenge the state to propose and implement a comparable plan to obviate the need for District’s proposal. Until then, we like the District’s proposal.

According to Minnesota Waters in the AIS Position Paper (April 2009), AIS are referred to as an ‘aquademic’ and “The AIS management system in Minnesota is constrained by outdated laws and cultural norms ...” Further, Minnesota Waters says, “Unless we transform our approach, AIS will steadily overrun Minnesota’s lakes and rivers – with devastating results for our state’s businesses, communities and recreation.”

The Lake Minnetonka Association, Minnesota Waters and many other lake associations have been leaders in advocating for aggressive, comprehensive AIS prevention and control. The District proposed plan appears to fit this bill. We applaud the District for the leadership, courage and commitment to confront this serious threat to our lakes.

MCWD’s proposal is truly transformative and merits our communities’ consideration and support.

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