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Shoreline troubles brewing

Published (4/25/2008)
By Nick Busse
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A simmering conflict between the Department of Natural Resources and lakefront property owners is creeping its way into the Legislature.

The DNR is updating statewide rules on shoreline development, with the goal of producing standards that will protect fish habitat and promote clean and unimpaired waters. The department hopes to address the problem of degradation of natural shorelines by shoreline property owners who eradicate native aquatic plants to provide themselves easier swimming and boating access to the lakes, and to improve the view.

“From a habitat and water quality standpoint, the department believes that’s really problematic,” said Steve Hirsch, assistant director of the DNR’s Division of Ecological Resources.

Hirsch testified April 22 in opposition to HF4157, sponsored by Rep. Tim Faust (DFL-Mora), which would carve out a guaranteed percentage of shoreline area for each lakefront property owner to clear out aquatic plants and provide themselves access to the water. Faust said the bill represents a “very reasonable compromise” between property owners’ needs and those of the DNR. Several members of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee disagreed.

“People think for some reason because they buy a fancy place on the lake that they own that section of the lake, and I’d just like to refute that theory,” said Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder). He argued that property owners who eliminate aquatic plants for their own aesthetic purposes are doing so against the best interests of other Minnesotans who have a lawful right to enjoy the lake.

“The more weeds and things that you take out, the more it degrades the lake, the less fishing opportunity there is,” Cornish said.

But property owners like Bill Pool, who owns 125 feet of shoreline on Daggett Lake near Cross Lake, say the DNR’s decision-making process is arbitrary and often confusing.

“As a property owner, you’re really at a loss as to how to deal with the DNR,” Pool said.

Moreover, Pool and others say that invasive species like Eurasian water milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed are encroaching along shorelines, and they want to eliminate them.

“We don’t care about the native species, but, in fact, our bay is being choked out by curly-leaf pondweed. And so, effectively, we just want a way to get our boat out of the bay,” Pool said.

The hearing on Faust’s bill was informational only; no action was taken. A companion, SF3433, sponsored by Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook), awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

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