Aquatic Invasive Species Funding BillsPublished by Judy Corrigan on Wed, 03/20/2013 - 11:50
Our lakes and rivers are worth billions of dollars, but more than that they are core to what it means to be Minnesotan. Two bills currently moving through the legislature would go a long way to protecting our economic and cultural future. HF 1442 (Hansen) is up in the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee and SF 1442 (Hoffman) is in the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.
These bills set up an educational program for watercraft owners, including those who bring in boats from out of state, on our current AIS laws and programs. The yearly decal would raise revenue for programs to stop the spread of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasives.
In the last three years Minnesota has begun to set up programs to help stop the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species, but efforts have been hampered by lack of money. In 2011 MLR pushed for funding and the legislature appropriated about $8 million over two years in one time money from the Environmental trust Fund Account - money raised by lottery proceeds. This funding runs out in July of 2013.
In the interim, local governments, property owners and counties have been trying to plug the budget hole, spending millions of private dollars to hire boat ramp AIS inspectors, buy decontamination equipment, put out educational materials and other activities. But this is not sustainable. Minnesota needs a comprehensive statewide plan that is adequately and reliably funded.
HF 1442 (Hansen) and SF 1442 (Hoffman) would create an ongoing and dedicated fund to implement a comprehensive statewide plan to fight AIS. These bills not only raise money, but raise awareness and educate boat owners to the threat of AIS and the steps they can take to prevent its spread. One big benefit is that the bill applies to all users, including out of state boaters who are probably not aware of Minnesota's laws and are probably coming from a state with more infested waters than we have. Without a reliable source of funding for AIS work, Minnesota stands no chance in its war against aquatic invasive species.