3 lake associations sue DNR over zebra mussels

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2012 - 12:28 AM

The groups want the state agency to inspect all boats entering their lakes to contain spread of zebra mussels.

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Zebra mussels, like these on a tree branch that had fallen into Rice Lake near Brainerd, take hold because they have no natural enemies.

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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Three lake associations in Carver County have filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for not doing enough to prevent the spread of zebra mussels.

Residents from Christmas Lake, Lake Bavaria and Lotus Lake are worried the invasive mussels will be carried into their lakes by boats, trailers, bait buckets or bilge water and want the DNR to inspect all boats entering their lakes during the 2012 boating season.

"The DNR's statewide aquatic invasive species prevention program continues to fail and unless something is done, every popular lake will get every new invasive species," said Joe Shneider, president of the Christmas Lake Homeowners Association.

In late January, the Lake Minnewashta Preservation Association, also in Carver County, successfully persuaded Carver County Board and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to jointly fund an inspection program beginning May 15 at Lake Minnewashta Regional Park.

Shneider and others want all boats destined for their lakes to be inspected at the Minnewashta site, at least initially. The three groups also sued the city of Chanhassen to allow installation of an electronic gate at the public access for Lotus Lake.

DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen said the agency does not have legal authority to inspect boats at an off-lake location but is seeking that from the Legislature.

However, Niskanen said the DNR has major concerns about installing gates at public accesses to lakes and does not have the resources to pay for a full-blown inspection system at all lakes in the metro area.

"We're working as fast as we can with the authority and the finances that the Legislature has given us," he said.

This year the DNR will hire 150 additional inspectors to work at boat launches, inaugurate about two dozen decontamination units to wash boats and require all businesses that install docks and boat lifts or provide other lake services to be trained about invasive species.

Zebra mussels have been confirmed in 29 lakes and nine rivers in the state, and are suspected to be in about 30 additional connected lakes.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

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