Created: 11/14/2013 10:17 AM KSTP.com
By: Jennie Olson
Minnesota's fight against aquatic invasive species is pitting the government panel that helps allocate Legacy Fund money against lake property owners.
The Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council angered the Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations when it replaced the group's proposal with one of its own, Minnesota Public Radio reported Thursday. The association had proposed to spend $25 million for boat cleaning stations statewide to stop the spread of unwanted hitchhikers such as zebra mussels.
Instead, the council in September replaced that proposal with its own idea for spending $3.6 million to ask local governments and private groups for ideas to fight invasive species. Those ideas would be considered for matching grants, pilot projects would be developed and their effectiveness monitored. It's one of several proposed projects the council is sending to the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton for approval.
Outdoor Heritage Council Chairman David Hartwell said the panel decided to bypass its usual process for ranking proposals because it thought the one from the lake property owners had little chance of success.
But Joe Shneider, vice president of the Coalition of Lake Associations, said the worry is that spending time asking for ideas will delay taking effective action.
As zebra mussels have spread to dozens of lakes across the state, local governments and lake groups have been clamoring for more money to fight the invasion. The Legislature appropriated more than $8 million this year for the Department of Natural Resources' aquatic invasive species programs.
Hartwell chose a private foundation to administer the funds for its proposal rather than the DNR because DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr told the council that Legacy funding - which comes from a voter-approved sales tax increase designed to fund projects the government would not otherwise undertake - should not be used for aquatic invasive species programs. Landwehr suggested such a use of the funding might be unconstitutional.
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