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'Star Lake' program inches closer to approval

ST. PAUL - Shoreland property owners who voluntarily work to improve the quality of their lakes or rivers are one step closer to earning state recognition.

Sen. Mary Olson gained a Minnesota Senate committee's approval Monday for her plan to create the so-called Star Lake program that publicly recognizes lake associations' water and shoreline cleanup and environmental work.

Olson, DFL-Bemidji, called lake associations among the most significant volunteer organizations in northern Minnesota because of the time and resources residents donate to improve water quality, promote native vegetation growth and inform boaters about invasive aquatic species.

Dan Kittilson told the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee that his Little Sand Lake Association in Hubbard County voluntarily has taken on water quality projects, working with the Department of Natural Resources.

"We feel very strongly about protecting the quality of our lake," Kittilson said. Lakeshore owners are concerned about future shorefront development and aquatic invasive species, he said.

Kittilson urged the Senate panel to approve Olson's plan.

Olson's plan would require that any lake association seeking the Star Lake designation submit a comprehensive management plan for the lake or river. That provision likely will prompt more debate because some local government organizations are concerned that could conflict with other comprehensive management plans covering the same area.

Lake associations seeking the designation must:

E Maintain a lake or river management plan

E Have an association membership of at least half of the private shoreland owners

E Take part in a state water-quality monitoring program and consult annually with state officials

A Star Lake or river designation would be effective for five years or until an appointed board finds a lake association not fulfilling its requirements.

Olson's bill creates a nonprofit Star Lake Board that would award the designation to lake associations and distribute water cleanup funding.

A similar proposal is moving through the House, led by Rep. Frank Moe, also a Bemidji Democrat.

Wente works for Forum Communications Co., which owns DL Newspapers. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or