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Policing waterways for invasives

Published (5/20/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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If you plan on getting onto Minnesota waters this summer, you may want to follow proposed legislation that would affect your use of water-related equipment besides boats.

HF1097/ SF1115* is intended to help stop the spread of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species by requiring people to drain water, remove plugs and open valves before leaving the water.

A conference committee approved details of the omnibus environment policy bill May 17, which now goes back to the House and Senate for consideration.

“I think this is incredibly important to get a handle on this as quickly as possible,” said Rep. Connie Doepke (R-Orono), who lives near Lake Minnetonka.

Sponsored by Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), the bill would also require watercraft operators to obtain and display a decal on their canoe, motorized boat or other watercraft. The free decal would outline the new regulations and would be available when owners register their watercraft, which is once every three years. After Aug. 1, 2014, violations would become a petty misdemeanor.

The Department of Natural Resources would train conservation officers and others to operate inspection stations near boat ramps. Inspectors would be allowed to visually and physically inspect water-related equipment to determine whether aquatic invasive species, aquatic plants or water remains. If a person transporting the equipment refuses to take corrective action or fails to comply with an order the violation could be reported to a conservation officer or other licensed peace officer.

Also included in the bill is HF716, sponsored by Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont), which would not require an automatic environmental assessment worksheet for the construction or expansion of some ethanol plants. An environmental assessment worksheet outlines basic facts necessary to determine whether an environmental impact statement is required for a proposed project.

Also, residents near a proposed state project could find a more difficult time petitioning for an EAW. Under an amendment added by Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau), the number of signatures required to petition for an EAW would increase from 25 to 100 individuals who reside or own property in the county or an adjoining county where the proposed project would be located. In conference committee, Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Brainerd) unsuccessfully tried to decrease the number to 75, saying it may be too difficult to get 100 signatures in some rural areas.

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