Fishermen representing groups from throughout the Metro area were in Orono Thursday night to voice staunch opposition to that includes placing electronic gates at public boat accesses.
Shawn Kellet lives in Excelsior and was representing the Minnesota Muskie and Pike Alliance at Thursday’s meeting of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. Kellet said waterfowl, docks and small craft such as jet skis were just as responsible as boats for the spread of AIS and said gating public access points “perpetuated the ‘get off my lake’ mentality.”
Kellet went on to say that milfoil growth is the lowest he’s seen in years due to a series of successful control initiatives and said nature was putting a dent in the zebra mussel infestation as well.
“The bluegills are eating the ever living hell out of the zebra mussels right now,” Kellet said. “If you have a live well full of bluegills, you will find a live well full of crushed zebra mussels. That’s something you guys may or may not know.”
Gary Klingler owns Big Dog Fishing Guide Service based in Howard Lake and launches his boat into Lake Minnetonka between five and seven days each week during the season. He said his business would financially suffer if the plan being proposed Coalition of Minnehaha Creek Waters was adopted and said he opposed any idea that would require a boat to be inspected each time it entered the water.
“I get off the water at seven or eight at night, and I’m back on the next morning at 6 a.m.,” Klingler said. “How am I supposed to get my boat inspected?”
Klingler went on to say invasive species were the unfortunate new normal for Lake Minnetonka and highlighted that there were no proven, safe methods to rid a lake of zebra mussels, milfoil and other invasives.
“Go back in history and look at the Hawaiian Islands,” he said. “All that stuff that grew over there is invasive species. It’s evolution.”
David Stano of Eden Prairie called himself a concerned angler who fishes on Lake Minnetonka often. He, too, opposes restricting public access to lakes and questioned the legality of such a measure.
“A lot of these accesses are county owned or city owned, however they have taken state and/or federal money to create these accesses and keep them open to the public,” he said. “From a legal standpoint, can a city say ‘give us your state or federal money to develop this access, but now we’re going to put a gate up to keep you out.’”
Jay Greene is an avid angler who lives in Mound and says he has launched his fishing boat 50 times so far this season. He hopes to launch it 40 more before the ice arrives.
“I imagine right now that I’m somebody’s poster child for spreading AIS, and I resent it,” Greene said. “I know what the hell is going on. I clean my boat, and I follow the rules.“
Greene has been dealing with aquatic invasive species for about 15 years and sits on several committees dedicated to addressing the issue, including a task force assembled by the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District.
Greene said he did not object to having his boat inspected but vehemently opposes having his right to enter the water at his pleasure infringed upon.
“I don’t have a problem being inspected, but I do have a problem not having the ability to things on my own,” Greene said. “I do have a problem with having to ask you for permission to fish the lake. That’s just wrong. I have a problem with public money being used to restrict access to public waters. I’m really concerned about your plan.”
Richie Anderson has lived in the Lake Minnetonka for nearly six decades and said this isn’t the first time an alarm has been sounded about the lake’s health and future vitality. Anderson said property values fell in the late 1980s when milfoil arrived in Lake Minnetonka and water levels fell to record lows.
“People were saying the lake was going to be dead in a few years,” Anderson said. “Clearly that hasn’t happened.”
Anderson went on to say he sails often on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, where zebra mussels have been present for nearly 15 years (they were discovered in Lake Minnetonka three summers ago) and the biggest inconvenience residents there report are having to wear boat shoes when swimming.
“I think the Chicken Little thing about it being doomsday is the same kind of mentality from 1987 when the so-called experts were saying the lake was going to die,” he said.
Anderson also questioned why two lake manager positions, costing a combined $250,000, were being proposed as part of the Coalition of Minnehaha Creek Waters’ proposal.
“It sounds to me like someone is looking for a job,” he said. “This is ridiculous to spend money and over regulating when we already have the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District, the DNR and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed.”
Vern Wagner is vice president of Anglers for Habitat, sits on the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District’s AIS Committee and is on the statewide Citizens AIS Committee. Wagner questioned whether the DNR would even approve gating public accesses and said a timeline calling for a 2013 installation of gates at public accesses was unrealistic.
Jerry Brecke owns a marina on Lake Minnetonka and said the feasibility of the plan being presented by the newly formed Coalition of Minnehaha Creek Waters was “bad,” Brecke went on to question why he only learned of Thursday’s meeting from a crew installing docks at his marina.
“I think this is a relatively secret thing that’s being developed pushed through in a hurry,” Brecke said.
Brecke said his marina stores boats across a road and said it was not practical to have them inspected for AIS each time they entered Lake Minnetonka. He further took issue with his business being forced to comply with what he called “ridiculous regulations.”
“It’s our lake, and we’re very proud of it,” Brecke said. “I’m very discouraged to hear about fees, fees, fees and another layer of government. If anything, we need to limit ourselves and not increase government like you’re doing right here. The fee aspect scares me.”
While many of the state’s fishermen oppose the plan being proposed by the Coalition of Minnehaha Creek Waters, area lake and homeowner associations vehemently support it. Check back soon for that story.