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Lake groups urge Dayton to close public accesses on lakes infested with aquatic invasive species

Detroit Lakes, MN June 29, 2011 -- Several groups dedicated to protecting Minnesota's public waters are demanding that Governor Dayton close public accesses at all Department of Natural Resources designated lakes and rivers infested with aquatic invasive species in the event of a government shutdown.

Minnesota Waters, Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA) Collaborative, Minnesota Division of Izaak Walton League, Minnesota Seasonal and Recreational Property Owners Association (MSRPO), Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and the Pelican River Watershed District have joined together in a letter to Governor Mark Dayton insisting that public waters be afforded the same protection as state parks. All state parks would be closed during a shutdown the DNR has indicated.

Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin's order this afternoon on essential services does not protect Minnesota waters. This broad-based coalition of organizations believes Commissioner Tom Landwehr and Governor Dayton have authority to close all designated infested waters as a necessary step to slowing the spread of zebra mussels and other harmful aquatic invasive species.

"Imagine all the boat traffic going in and out of lakes infested with zebra mussels or Eurasian Watermilfoil during the long holiday weekend," said Dick Hecock, president of Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA). Tubing one day on infested waters outside of Becker County then coming to Detroit Lakes to watch the fireworks -- all without any kind of inspection or decontamination. This weekend alone has the potential to spread these invasive species like wildfire across the state." Becker County COLA is a member of Minnesota Waters, COLA Collaborative and MSRPO.

The DNR has already indicated that watercraft inspectors have been deemed "non essential," leaving every public access without any kind of safeguard against the spread of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasives. "Certainly Governor Dayton and Commissioner Tom Landwehr can not mean that Minnesota's public waters are also nonessential. The only right thing to do is to prevent boats from entering and leaving infested waters, just as they are protecting state parks during this time," noted Tera Guetter, director of Pelican River Watershed District based in Detroit Lakes.