A controversial plan that proposes restricting access to Lake Minnetonka and more than two dozen other lakes inside the will be discussed tonight at a meeting in Orono.
In an effort to eradicate aquatic invasive species, particularly zebra mussels, from Lake Minnetonka and other bodies of water, the newly-formed "Coalition of Minnehaha Creek Waters" has introduced an aggressive set of actions which include placing electronic gates at about 30 public boat accesses throughout the watershed district. Installation of electronic gates is just one piece of a 20-page plan (attached to this post in its entirety) that will be presented at tonight’s meeting, but even the plan's creators concede it is the most controversial component.
The Coalition of Minnehaha Creek Waters stresses it supports “maintaining free (but not unfettered) access to public lakes and waterways,” but says current prevention methods are not working and that unprecedented measures are required to eradicate aquatic invasive species. These measures include 100 percent inspection of watercraft, dedicated inspection and decontamination sites, a communications program and “unattended access controls at public access points.”
The proposal calls for electronic gates to be used at all public access points inside the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. The gates will be controlled by keypads, with access codes given to boat owners who first must pass inspection at regional inspection sites. The codes would only be valid on a temporary basis, and boaters would be required to have their craft inspection each time they enter the water.
Installation of the gates would be the first time Minnesota has implemented such a measure, and state law requires that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources first approve the action.
To pay for the plan, the Coalition of Minnehaha Creek Waters is proposing a cost sharing mechanism that would involve annual contributions from municipal governments and lake associations beginning in 2014. Other “stakeholders” include watercraft users, anglers and private marinas, as well as cities, counties, watershed districts and the state.
Cost of implementing the plan in its current state is estimated to be approximately $8 million, which includes about $1.75 million in one-time startup costs.
The idea will be discussed tonight at the Freshwater Society’s headquarters in Orono. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m.