Gov. Dayton Signs Aquatic Invasive Species LawPublished by admin on Wed, 06/01/2011 - 00:00
While we had hoped to have Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) legislation in place by the 2011 fishing opener, Gov. Dayton did sign SF 1115, a bill that contained AIS policy provisions in time for the official start of summer, Memorial Day, a day many families gather at the lake to remember those who gave their lives to defend us. We hope you all had a wonderful weekend together. Memorial Day is the weekend that Minnesota families traditionally open lake places, take the family camping at one of Minnesota's beautiful state parks, or put boats in the water for the first time. Memorial Day weekend is a time of great risk for the transport of Aquatic Invasive Species.
The Aquatic Invasive Species policy bill, Senate File 1115, that Governor Dayton signed May 27th, is a great first step in the fight against Aquatic Invasive Species. Special thanks are due to the following legislators for their work: Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, Sen. John Carlson, Sen. Paul Gazelka, Sen. Rod Skoe, Sen. Gary Dahms, Rep. Denny McNamara, Rep. John Ward, Rep. Connie Doepke and many others. The passage of SF 1115 was a real grass roots achievement, with many, many organizations joining together, and working with MSRPO's lobbying team and legislators to protect our lakes. Everyone should feel proud about what we have all accomplished together.
If you are not a member of MSRPO, please join today. We are working to protect your lake, but grass roots power depends on "feets on the streets." With more members we would have had even greater success protecting the lakes, rivers and streams that are so important to us all. Our Web Site is secure - you can join on line.
Here is a brief outline of what SF 1115 contains regarding AIS. Specifically SF 1115:
- Defines decontamination, suggesting the Western Regional Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species guidelines.
- Defines "Inspector" to include anyone certified by the Commissioner, even if they are not licenced peace officers.
- Empowers inspectors to be able to order inspection and/or decontamination of water related equipment before it is put into waters of the state.
- Makes "compliance with aquatic invasive species inspection requirements... an express condition of operating or transporting water related equipment" in Minnesota.
- Empowers conservation or peace officers to set up "check stations," to check for AIS.
- Requires water related service providers to complete AIS training to get a permit.
- Disburses AIS penalties to the issuing agency, thereby creating incentive for local law enforcement to enforce AIS regulations.
- Requires boat owners to display an educational rules decal (supplied at no cost by the DNR) on their boats. This will keep the AIS message constantly in front of all boat operators, even those who are not the owner and may not know the rules.
- Gives the commissioner increased leeway in dealing with fishing tournaments by the addition of, "The commissioner may require mandatory decontamination of boats participating in fishing contests on infested waters."
- The bill is effective the day following enactment.
We were unable to get an increase in either civil or criminal penalties for violating AIS rules, but we will be back next year and with your help we will be successful.
Even though Gov. Dayton signed the bill into law, the funding for increased AIS work in Minnesota remains uncertain. All finance bills were rejected by the governor. He wrote in his message to Legislative leadership, "I am vetoing and returning Chapter 46, House File HF 1010, the Environment, Energy and Natural resources Finance Bill. Reductions at the levels proposed in this bill to the MPCA, DNR, BWSR and the Department of Commerce would have harmful effects on Minnesotans throughout our state." HF 1010 funded AIS work with Environmental Trust Fund money. Gov. Dayton wrote regarding this provision, "In regard to the Department of Natural Resources sections of the bill, I have concerns about using environment and natural resources trust fund dollars to fund accelerated efforts to prevent future spread of aquatic invasive species; the state needs a long-term and dedicated funding source to build lasting programs. I urge you to include my Aquatic Invasive Species funding proposal to fund these important programs." Specifically, Gov. Dayton is asking the legislature to approve the $5 a year increase on the AIS surcharge on boat registrations. We will continue to work and to advocate for a reliable and ongoing funding source to protect Minnesota's lakes and rivers. Many of you have written in and suggested that funds from the Legacy Amendment would be appropriate for this work.
The Legacy Funding Bill, SF 1363, which appropriates $450 million in legacy funds over the next biennium ran into a road block in the House in the final hours of session. House members from both parties had hesitations with provisions that weakened the open meeting requirements of the Lessard/Sams council. SF 1363 was referred back to conference on a vote of 119 yeas to 14 nays. However, the motion was reconsidered and debate continued. The House adjourned the regular session before a final vote on the bill. No money for AIS was included in the provision.
Please use the email form below to drop your legislators an email, thank them for passage of the AIS policy bill, SF 1115. Encourage them to seek ongoing and reliable funding for AIS work from an increase in the AIS surcharge on boat registrations, or other sources. The message below is a boiler plate, so please do add your own words. These emails are incredibly powerful.
If you are not a resident of Minnesota, please consider writing a letter to the editor of your local paper. Here is a link that can get you started.
The legislative process is a marathon, not a sprint. Together we have made remarkable progress towards protecting our lakes. Please do take a moment to write your legislators today.
Finally, if you would like Jeff Forester or a Board member from MSRPO to speak at the annual meeting of your lake association, please drop us a line. There is a lot of information to share regarding ways local groups can protect their lakes from zebra mussels and other non-native aquatic species. We hope you and your family had a safe and happy Memorial Day.