The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District’s bi-monthly workshops typically draw a crowd that can be counted on one hand, but so many were expected at Thursday’s meeting that a venue change was needed to accommodate the anticipated turnout.
The gallery still spilled into the lobby of the Freshwater Society’s headquarters in Orono.
Why the dramatic spike in attendance?
To hear, discuss and react to a sweeping invasive species control plan being presented by the Coalition of Minnehaha Creek Waters, a newly formed consortium of lake and homeowner associations, which could impact lakes throughout western Hennepin County.
Dick Osgood and Joe Shneider presented what they called a “big, bold aquatic invasive species prevention plan” that includes one very controversial measure vehemently opposed by some in attendance.
While Shneider stressed there was no intention or talk of closing public accesses to Lake Minnetonka or any other lake, the Coalition of Minnehaha Creek Waters is proposing the installation of electronic gates at public boat accesses and restricting ramps to only watercraft that first pass a thorough inspection.
“Our plan does include electronic access controls so that the only thing we keep our of our water are invasive species,” Shneider said. “There is no privatization focus, there is no intention to limit access—except watercraft that are not AIS free.”
Osgood suggested that the current invasive organisms flourishing in Lake Minnetonka and other lakes throughout the Minnehaha Creek Watershed were just the first wave of organisms that could arrive in the coming years. While he conceded there was no remedy or treatment for most existing populations, Osgood said having a strong prevention net in place could keep carp, spiny water fleas and hydrilla out of Lake Minnetonka and other area lakes.
Osgood and Shneider are additionally proposing regional inspection sites be set up throughout the watershed, as well as dedicated inspection sites at high-volume access points.
“This is a system to stop all invasive species,” Shneider said of the plan. “It’s meant to stop all human transfer of AIS. It’s not just an answer to, for example, zebra mussels.”
Shneider and Osgood say the drastic step of installing electronic gates at public boat accesses points is the result of the state of Minnesota, and specifically the Department of Natural Resources, having not adequately addressed invasive species problem.
Pointing to a growing list of infested lakes and low compliance numbers for AIS prevention, Osgood and Schneider say the time has come for a pivot in the fight against invasive species.
“We’re convinced this is the only approach to preserve our waters for future generations and preserve the economic benefits for our communities and businesses,” Shneider said.
The plan was presented to the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District because of the watershed district’s unique position to set policies across county, city and other municipal boundaries. A new state law gives the DNR an ability to delegate authority to deal with aquatic invasive species, and the Minnehaha Watershed District could implement regulations that, if approved, would direct western Hennepin County's plan of attack.
While many of the region’s lake and homeowner associations support the plan, (), many spoke in opposition during Thursday's meeting. Jerry Rockvam of Spring Park was one.
“I think the last thing we need is another organization to come in and that’s trying to shortcircuit the process and the planning system that’s already in place,” Rockvam said. “It’s not like nothing is being done—it’s just not being done as fast as you would like.”
Check back soon for more on last night's meeting.