Trout clout? Bill angles for money for national HQ

  • Article by: BRIAN BAKST , Associated Press
  • Updated: March 21, 2013 - 10:05 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. - This is no ordinary fish tale.

Minnesota lawmakers are being asked to float $4.5 million in state bonds to establish a permanent home for the nonprofit National Trout Center in the southeastern city of Preston. The proposal, which got a hearing Thursday, angles for money to design, construct and equip the hands-on learning center devoted to the popular game fish. The center is currently in temporary space.

George Spangler, chairman of the trout center, said the proposal aims to "celebrate the trout as an icon within our public, within our culture."

Backers passed out paper trout bearing statistics about the fish and its fans, including the 155,000 stamps issued to eligible anglers in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin and the 530 miles of public access easements to Minnesota trout streams.

The building would be erected along the south branch of the Root River with a "living trout stream" running through the middle to help teach people the attributes of coldwater habitat.

Republican Rep. Greg Davids, the sponsor, said the area is known nationally for its pristine trout streams and draws visitors from near and far. Preston hosts Trout Days every May that, naturally, features a fishing contest.

"It's not a local trout center. It's not a state trout center. It's a national trout center," Davids said.

The Preston lawmamker wanted to get the project on the Capital Investment Committee's radar and extend an invitation for members to head south to check it out.

Rep. Leon Lille, DFL-North St. Paul, signaled he's already on board.

"This one is going to be great when it becomes a reality," he said.

Committee Chairwoman Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said she's planning to unveil an $800 million borrowing package when lawmakers return from their spring recess in early April. She said the trout bill could be included.

There are political calculations to consider. Bonding bills require a three-fifths vote to pass, meaning the Democratic majority will need Republican help to push it ahead.

Gov. Mark Dayton intends to release a $750 million borrowing package in the coming weeks.

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