Lakes groups scuttle lawsuit

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 13, 2012 - 9:21 PM

Associations from four west-metro lakes sought mandatory boat inspections to keep zebra mussels out of their lakes.

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Adam Doll, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invasive species assistant, used a hot-water, high-pressure washer to demonstrate on a DNR boat a decontamination effort.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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A group of west-metro lake associations said Friday that they have dropped their legal attempt to require a centralized inspection station to check boats for zebra mussels.

Three lake associations and individual property owners along Lotus Lake, Lake Bavaria, Christmas Lake and Lake Minnewashta had sued the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, saying it was not doing enough to protect their lakes from zebra mussels. They asked for the mandatory inspections to prevent the invasive mussels from being carried into their lakes on boats, trailers and bilge water.

Judge Philip Kanning dismissed the case earlier in the week and ruled that the associations did not meet the "high burden necessary to obtain an injunction" that would have ordered the centralized inspections.

Under the proposed solution, boat owners who wanted to launch at any of the four lakes would be required to have their boats inspected at Lake Minnewashta Regional Park. They would then be given a ticket or code that would enable them to pass inspectors or open electronic gates installed at public boat landings at the lakes.

Joe Shneider, a spokesman for the groups, said they were disappointed with the ruling and have decided to withdraw the case.

"Without the immediate injunction there's no way we would have an impact on the 2012 boating season," he said.

Steve Jenks, a plaintiff in the case who lives on Lotus Lake, said the proposed inspection system would have protected the cluster of lakes from infestation. They are near heavily trafficked Lake Minnetonka, where zebra mussels have spread rapidly after being discovered in 2010.

"We were looking for a multi-lake answer because it was efficient and more effective," Jenks said.

DNR officials countered that they are trying to protect lakes by increasing public education, hiring more inspectors, setting up more portable boat-washing stations this summer near infested waters, and requiring special training for businesses that move boats and install docks and boat lifts.

The DNR also argued that it does not have legal authority to require boaters to travel to an off-lake inspection site.

The Legislature is considering proposals that would modify state law to allow mandatory remote inspection stations, if certain criteria are met.

Judge Kanning noted that legislative discussion in his ruling, but said that under current law, the court has no authority to order the DNR to begin remote inspections.

"This is the legislative function that must be allowed to pass or fail without judicial involvement," he wrote. "Perhaps this opinion and result will spur appropriate legislative action."

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

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