MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Mark Dayton is considering a special legislative session to prevent what he calls “economic disaster” at Minnesota’s premiere walleye lake.
Lake Mille Lacs is suffering from a decline in its walleye population that is so severe, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources may ban walleye fishing altogether. Dayton compares the walleye crisis on Mille Lacs to the Avian flu disaster that hit turkey farmers this year, and he says it’s an emergency that requires the legislature to act.
As recently as 2012, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports 500,000 pounds of walleye came out of Lake Mille Lacs.
This year, anglers already harvested the annual quota of 40,000 pounds. And on Saturday, the DNR may announce that walleye fishing could be banned for the rest of the year.
“It is obviously a crisis situation,” Dayton, a Democrat, said. “The lack of walleye in the lake is just frightening. And to figure out how to turn that around, and turn it around as rapidly as possible, is a priority. But that’s not going to happen in the next month.”
Dayton says he’s deeply worried about the fate of the lake, and the businesses which depend on it. He’s preparing a $20 million disaster rescue package targeted at the 106 resort owners and related businesses.
Dayton says he’ll also confront complaints about how Lake Mille Lacs is managed by the Department of Natural Resources, and is directing the DNR to re-stock the lake with walleye as soon as possible.
“It is possible to restore a lake. And I am going to insist that the DNR undertake that kind of very, very aggressive, all-out effort beginning immediately,” Dayton said.
Dayton will meet in St. Paul with Mille Lacs area business leaders on Thursday, and go to Mille Lacs on Friday for a first-hand look.
He said he’s prepared to call a special session as soon as Democratic and Republican leaders can agree on a rescue package.
“I recognize this is an emergency situation,” he said. “And we need to step in and save people from disaster and bankruptcy.”
The Speaker of the Minnesota House, GOP Rep. Kurt Daudt, said Tuesday he’s open to a deeper discussion of the economic troubles at Mille Lacs.
“The threat of a shorter walleye season on Mille Lacs is very concerning. I suggested to the Governor earlier today that we put together a working group of commissioners, committee chairs and policy experts to meet in the next few days. Together we will examine the problem and determine the best solution,” Daudt said.