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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R)

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Dangerous Waters...

Thursday, March 9, 2017

As many of you know, before coming to the Minnesota House of Representatives I served as a manager on the Thirty Lakes Watershed District Board for nearly 2 years. After leaving the Watershed District and entering the legislature, I was appointed to the House Environment Policy and Finance Committee. Now in my second term, I serve as the vice chair of that committee. Last month I was elected to serve as Co-chair of the LCCMR, alongside Senator Ingebrigtsen and a member of the public.

I only mention this to help folks better understand the significant time I have spent working on environmental issues and my ongoing commitment to finding solutions wherever they may be found.

The question I hear most, "Can we stop AIS (aquatic invasive species)?” The answer is yes, however that would require that we adopt water use rules that would cripple Minnesota's tourism-driven economy and crush the traditions we all hold dear. Public water accesses would have to be closed and private accesses regulated.

Along with dock equipment, boats would no longer be allowed to access more than one lake, and all aircraft would be prohibited from landing in water. The aircraft restriction would also include all fire-fighting equipment which also has the potential to transport invasive species.

Additionally, a massive governmental agency initiative would be required to enforce these incredibly controversial initiatives...

I am being brutally honest on this issue with the goal of fostering a conversation that needs to be started sooner than later. No one can predict the future, but I think we have to be realistic about our expectations and rely on known science, rather than depend on unrealistic “super advances” that may come with significant unintended consequences.

This editorial will likely garner some criticism, but my hope is that we can work together to develop realistic goals to maintain the quality of life and recreational opportunities we all know and love.

First, agencies must be honest with the public. Almost every group using our lakes is to blame, and we must move beyond pointing fingers to developing better prevention strategies. We also need to invest in realistic and proven solutions, rather than burying our heads in the sand as the problem compounds.

Second, while Minnesota may have the largest water resources in the country, we mustn't take anything for granted. States with fewer aquatic resources have led the way in developing lake restoration technologies, and we should be building on those ideas here at home.

We can still win this war to maintain our recreational traditions by expanding on the proven tactics others have deployed to rebuild what has been taken by AIS. Finally, we need to engage everyone in this fight. I'm currently carrying legislation that would designate the narrowleaf cattail as an invasive species, allowing for more resources and less regulations in the battle to maintain our native ecosystem.

Government must empower citizens, better connect lake associations with easier permitting, streamline agency policy, and roll back overbearing rules that have bogged down efforts to clean Minnesota's Lakes. Let’s start an honest conversation.