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Even without having its oversight authority spelled out, he added, the DNR can still go to court to challenge variance decisions.
The Hubbard decision, however, has rendered that option virtually moot. And there is clearly resentment, especially in more conservative communities, about the DNR having a hand in what is seen by many as an issue better left to local government.
But river towns don’t function in isolation, Ryun said. That is one reason she said her group is proposing an alternative to resolving variance conflicts that bypasses legislative action in favor of a team approach that draws in perspectives of landowners, developers, local governments, environmental advocates, the DNR, National Park Service and others.
Using grants from the state’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (money from lottery proceeds), she said, that team approach could protect the shore land of the lower St. Croix, with residents themselves being the river’s first line of defense.
On its face, Fix said such an approach could remove the inherent conflict that has derailed his family’s dream.
“The river needs to be preserved,” said Fix, who describes himself as a staunch environmentalist. “But it will never be preserved with such head-butting antagonism.”
Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @StribJAnderson