It just didn’t add up to Anoka County Commissioner Julie Braastad.

The state will give Anoka County $135,000 to combat Eurasian milfoil and other aquatic invasive species mucking up area lakes, but just $10,000 of that was initially budgeted for a grant program that could be used for actual treatment costs.

The rest was to be spent on education efforts, including signs and seasonal workers talking with boaters at area launches.

“An ounce of prevention” is a laudable goal, but many of Anoka County’s lakes are already infected and need costly treatments each year, reasoned Braastad.

Braastad convinced her colleagues on the County Board to increase the amount used for treatments to $24,000. That’s enough for each of eight major lakes in the county to receive $3,000. The money will be administered through a county grant program and treatments will need to be near either a public boat launch, swimming area or fishing pier.

“Prevention, education and treatment — we have to do it all,” Braastad said. “We will give it to the lake associations and they can use it how they want.”

Braastad said she’s not dismissing the value of education. She’s simply striking a better balance.

“I do believe in the education part of it. If we don’t learn what we are doing wrong, it will never improve and we’ll infect more lakes,” Braastad said. “And there are some of our lakes that don’t have all the aquatic invasive species.”

A debate over who should pay for treatments at Ham Lake put the issue on Braastad’s radar.

The nonprofit Ham Lake Lake Association has struggled to find funding to continue annual treatments since milfoil was found in the lake in 2013. The nonprofit has raised more than $30,000 in private funds to pay for treatment.

The Ham Lake City Council has so far declined to contribute, even though the city owns a park that occupies about 40 percent of the shoreline. City leaders argue the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the small number of shoreline owners who reap most of the benefit of the lake should pay.

Across the Twin Cities, other lakeshore owners’ associations rely on a combination of donations, city dollars and DNR grants pay for treatments

But many lake associations could be looking for additional funding in 2016.

Citing budgetary reasons, the DNR has slashed the amount of money it awards in grants to fight aquatic invasives from $675,000 to $200,000. Those DNR dollars account for about one-third of the money spent to manage invasive aquatic species — thick mats of vegetation that crowd out native plants and ruin swimming and boating.

 

shannon.prather@startribune.com 612-673-4804