Friday, December 17, 2010

Tri-County AIS Legislative Summit Rescheduled

Saturday, January 15, 2011 is the new date set for the Tri-County Aquatic Invasive Species Legislative Summit originally scheduled for December 13, 2010. The Summit will begin at 9:30am with an informal reception for all attendees and legislators in the Conference Center at M-State in Detroit Lakes. The Summit begins at 10:00am.

What began as a Becker County initiative quickly has grown to become a multi-county effort as Hubbard and Otter Tail county coalitions of lake associations and environmental groups have joined with the many Becker County government agencies and organizations hosting the Summit.

The Summit brings all of the key agencies, businesses and environmental organizations together with state legislative representatives and senators to focus on the need to prioritize the research, management and prevention of aquatic invasive species in the more than 2,360 lakes in the three-county area. With 800 of these lakes having public access sites just on those lakes, the potential for future contamination could be devastating if containment measures are not enacted immediately.

Key organizers for this event are the Pelican River Watershed District, the City of Detroit Lakes and Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations. According to Barb Halbakken Fischburg of COLA and the Lake Detroiters Association, the Summit was expanded because, “When the Hubbard and Otter Tail County COLAs learned that Becker County’s Legislative Summit was delayed by weather, they were quick to step forward as co-sponsors because they too see the need for a cohesive AIS management strategy that crosses traditional agency, political and jurisdictional lines.”

“Hubbard County can not afford to sit idly by and watch invasives coming into our lakes. We have to act now, in partnership with Becker and Otter Tail counties, to harness all available state, regional and local resources in this fight before it’s too late and our lakes are irreparably harmed,” said Dan Kittilson, President of the Hubbard County COLA. Hubbard County lakes have not been infested yet, Kittilson stressed, “Invasive species are spread when boats move from lake to lake without taking proper precautions. If we don’t act now, Hubbard County lakes will soon be endangered.”

Nearby Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County is infested with zebra mussels that rapidly colonize and attach to rocks and other hard surfaces like boats, docks, lifts, submerged pumps or water intake pipes. They can become so numerous that they clog intakes of power generating plants, waterworks, and other facilities. The razor-sharp  shells litter beaches and lake bottoms, making foot traffic dangerous and impassible. High densities of zebra mussels can quickly deplete the food resources that are essential to the survival of native fishes and other aquatic animals.

Otter Tail County COLA president Shawn Olson noted. “With more than 1,000 properties on Pelican Lake alone, our economic and business climate could be drastically affected by further spread of these invasives.” She continued, “We have more than 1,000 lakes in Otter Tail County and we know that development occurs primarily around these lakes. If a lake becomes infested, our local economy takes a big hit.”

State Senators invited from all districts representing the three counties and others nearby are Keith Langseth (SD-9), Rod Skoe (SD-2), along with Senators-Elect Gretchen Hoffman (SD-10) and John Carlson (SD-4). Invited State Representatives for these districts are Kent Eken (HD-2A), Morrie Lanning (HD-9A), Paul Marquart (HD-9B), Mark Murdock (HD-10B), Bud Nornes (HD-10A) and Representatives-Elect David Hancock (HD-2B) and Larry Howes (HD-4B).

The agenda for the Summit will address the current spread of invasives, the impact of AIS on tourism, business owners and homeowners, and preventive measures for the future. The financial affect on cities, counties and the State in times of very limited financial resources will also be a major topic of discussion. Representatives from the Minnesota DNR will be attending.

The goals of the Summit are to define the AIS problem in specific environmental terms and to provide area legislators with a baseline knowledge of the economic impact of AIS on these three counties. A more detailed agenda will be announced soon.

The Tri-County Aquatic Invasive Species Legislative Summit is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided both before and after the event. M-State is located at 900 Highway 34 East in Detroit Lakes.

For more information, please contact:
Becker County - Tara Guetter, Pelican River Watershed District, 218-847-0436
Hubbard County - Dan Kittilson, President, Hubbard County COLA, 218-732-5566
Otter Tail County - Shawn Olson, President, Otter Tail County COLA, 218-234-7077

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