Minnesota DNR Facing Lawsuit Over Zebra Mussels

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Three lake associations representing Lake Bavaria, Christmas Lake, and Lotus Lake are suing the Commissioner of the DNR, Tom Landwehr. They say he’s not doing enough to keep the destructive zebra mussels out of their lakes.

The plaintiffs want route boats to Lake Minnewashta, so they can be inspected before entering the lakes, but, the DNR says, that’s not something they can do right now.

“On this particular case, we don’t have the legal authority to force boaters to meet at the central location before they launch, we can inspect boats on the launch site, but not at an offsite location,” said Chris Niskanen, Communications Director for the DNR.

The plaintiffs argue that’s not true. They cite a Minnesota law, which states:

“Conservation officers or other licensed peace officers may utilize check stations in locations, or in proximity to locations, where watercraft or other water-related equipment is placed into or removed from waters of the state.”

“We wouldn’t have gone this far if we didn’t think they had the authority,” said Joe Shneider, one of the plaintiffs named in the suit and the president of the Christmas Lake Homeowners Association.

The plaintiffs and the DNR are after very similar things. The DNR wants to stop the spread of zebra mussels as much as anyone, but the suit really comes down to a matter of timing.

“There is a bill in the legislature right now that would give us the authority to do the sort of thing they’re suggesting in this lawsuit,” said Niskanen.

In fact, the bill is almost a mirror image of what the plaintiffs are asking for, but they say, they can’t afford to wait.

“Even if they could convince the legislature, will they be ready to get this implemented for the 2012 boating season? And we don’t believe they have a very high likelihood of that,” said Shneider.

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