Tougher line on boat checks in Shorewood

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 10, 2012 - 1:19 AM

Proposal is attempt to head off invasives in Christmas Lake.

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Erik Noonan, a University of St. Thomas student whose family lives on Christmas Lake, said he puts in 30 to 40 hours a week working at the lake inspecting for invasive species.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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Shorewood may soon be the first city in the state to mandate inspections for all boats, sending a strong message to boaters that the city won't tolerate anyone entering Christmas Lake without a watercraft check.

The City Council is expected to pass the ordinance on Monday in an effort to prevent the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels. The ordinance would make it a misdemeanor offense for boaters to refuse an inspection, with a fine of as much as $1,000.

The proposed ordinance essentially reaffirms state law, which gives conservation officers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and law enforcement the power to ticket or cite boaters who decline inspections. A boater could receive a $100 fine and pay $75 in court costs under the law.

However, the state doesn't require boats to be inspected before launching into a lake unless an inspector is at the boat access. Shorewood's ordinance takes the state law a step further by banning boaters from using the lake without an inspection, no matter what.

City Council Member Scott Zerby said the inspections will be mandatory regardless of whether a watercraft has evidence of aquatic invasive species.

"We're taking the strongest measures possible," Zerby said, adding that he hopes it's a model to other cities. "Christmas Lake is an exceptional example of a lake in Minnesota. It would be a shame to see more invasive species get in it."

If the five-member council approves the ordinance Monday, it would take effect soon after, Zerby said.

There will still be ways for boaters to slip through the cracks. The city has no control over the lake's private boat launches, and Zerby acknowledged the city won't be able to tell if boaters enter at the public access without an inspection unless an inspector is there. But that's why the Christmas Lake Homeowners Association, which pushed the city to enact the ordinance, has paid $36,000 of the $46,000 cost of hiring private inspectors to guard the boat launch nearly all day, every day.

It's part of a series of measures the lakeshore residents are taking to protect their lake. While no evidence of zebra mussels has been found in Christmas Lake, it's next to Lake Minnetonka, which is infested.

The association also largely funded installing electronic gates that automatically open at 6 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. daily, restricting boaters to when the access is open. The association paid $18,000 of the $30,000 cost of the gates.

Phil Meier, enforcement operations manager with the DNR, said he couldn't comment on individual cities' ordinances, but the department "very infrequently" issues citations for boaters who refuse an inspection.

State law also makes it a misdemeanor offense if boaters are caught transporting water or aquatic invasive species. Under new state law, fines will double beginning July 1 to $100 to $500.

It's rare, too, for a boater to decline an inspection at Christmas Lake. It hasn't happened at all since inspectors started manning the entrance last month.

"I can't believe anyone would do that except some hothead," Council Member Dick Woodruff said. "But I think it tied up a loose end [in state law]."

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141 Twitter: @kellystrib

  • IF YOU GO

    What: Shorewood City Council meeting

    When: 7 p.m. Monday

    Where: 5755 Country Club Road, Shorewood

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