By Bonnie Huettl, Alexandria, MN
We must stop the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS), namely zebra mussels (ZM), in Minnesota waters and contain the spread from infested waters until an antidote is found, and we must do it now. The issue has been around since 1989 in Minnesota and the attitude of the DNR has been to not inform the public of the devastation zebra mussels can cause. They were not prepared to move forward with anything other than education (collateral) and signage while other states have programs in place. How sad! We can change that.
A grassroots movement has been started to make some swift and effective changes as to how the infested lakes are accessed. A meeting was held on Friday, February 4 with Senator Ingebrigtsen to let him know how important the issue is and to carry forward the message to the Legislature that citizens want something done now. More than 75 people attended this meeting so there is support here in Alexandria as well as other parts of the state. He got the message.
The DNR will make a presentation to the Senate Environment and Natural Resource Committee, which is planned for February 10 and Senator Ingebrigtsen chairs that committee. Their presentation will likely be similar to what was presented to the House Environment and Natural Resource Committee, which primarily outlined AIS prevention ideas from stakeholder meetings. The House chair, Representative Denny McNamara, directed comments to the DNR, telling them to put together a plan to stop the spread of AIS in the state of Minnesota and bring it back to this committee. Many funding options have been identified as possibilities, ranging from LCCMR (lottery) to Clean Water Funds, which became available in 2008 when Minnesotans voted in favor of The Clean Water Act. To this point, none of that money has been used to protect Minnesota lakes from such nasty invasives.
We can only hope that the DNR and legislators quickly agree on a plan that will boldly address the spread of zebra mussel infested waters by fishing opener. Yes, this will alter the way we use the lakes but so will the invasives. Change is difficult for some but change is what must happen.
The target for the “Band-Aid” plan is opening fishing 2011. Aggressive, yes, but we have lost precious time educating while they are spreading. To learn more about mussels, visit www.dclamn.org.