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Tram will stay closed

In a split vote, the Becker County Commissioners voted Tuesday to keep the Dunton Locks tram between Muskrat Lake and Lake Sallie closed indefinitely.

Last week, county staff closed the tram after the DNR confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in Lake Melissa, which is at the bottom of the lake chain that starts with Detroit Lake.

Tuesday morning at the county commission meeting though, lake residents filled the room to speak both for and against opening the tram back up.

Lake Sallie resident Roger Demers spoke in favor of opening the tram up, saying that over 700 samples have been taken from Sallie, Detroit and Muskrat lakes and no zebra mussels have been found, and according to the DNR, he added, zebra mussels can’t swim upstream so the three upper lakes should be safe.

“If those are truly the facts, if Sallie and Muskrat and Detroit don’t have zebra mussels, then I don’t understand how making the tram closed will transport zebra mussels,” he said.

Lake Detroiter Association President Barb Halbakken Fischburg asked to keep the tram closed, saying it was “irresponsible knowing what we know” if the tram was used to continue transportation between lakes.

She said that while no adult zebra mussels have been found in Detroit Lake yet, there’s no way to determine if there are baby mussels in the lake because they are too tiny to see.

“Please help us save our lakes. It’s not too late,” she said.

The commissioners were as split as the audience members, some stating that they could go either way on the topic.

Barry Nelson said he wasn’t sure of the necessity of closing the tram.

“It’s more likely to infest Detroit Lake with other boats coming in, not from the tram,” he said. “I’m struggling to go either way with this.”

He said it is difficult to say 10 boats coming from Lake Sallie are more dangerous to Detroit Lake than the hundreds coming from around the state.

“It’s foolish of the commission to run boats upstream,” Commissioner Ben Grimsely said in support of keeping the tram closed.

Commissioner John Okeson said that he agrees with both Grimsley and Nelson, even though they were on different sides of the issue, adding that he thinks it’s more the trailers causing issues than the boats.

“That’s where the contamination is going to come from,” he said of the trailers.

Commissioner Don Skarie said that if the county is asking people to clean their boats and trailers, how can the county justify transporting the boats back and forth between lakes?

The Detroit Lakes City Council also voiced their support at an earlier meeting for keeping the tram closed; a unanimous resolution to that effect was passed at Tuesday night’s council meeting as well.

Okeson said, “One issue is the tram passes that have been sold, how to handle that.”

Also, the county just put money into getting the tram up and running this summer after the cables broke last year. Parks and Recreation Supervisor Marty Wiley said that the tram had only been open two weekends before it was closed due to the zebra mussels.

In the end, however, the majority of the commission agreed to keep the tram closed indefinitely.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.