ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Gov. Mark Dayton says a special session to address a walleye crisis on Lake Mille Lacs is now very unlikely.
Dayton said Wednesday he got only a tepid response from lawmakers to pass an emergency aid package for Mille Lacs area businesses suffering from a sharp drop in the walleye population on the state’s top fishing lake.
The state Department of Natural Resources already shut down walleye fishing for the rest of the year on Minnesota’s premier walleye lake to protect an even further drop in the fish population.
Now, an irritated Dayton is lambasting state lawmakers for rejecting his special session plan despite a continuing emergency on the lake.
“For them not to just refuse to come to the aid of their fellow Minnesotans in need, but to turn it into just a political spectacle, is really without precedent,” said Dayton, a Democrat. “Unless I hear otherwise, I assume the legislative bodies do not want to have a special session. They don’t want to provide special assistance to the people of Mille Lacs who are very seriously in need of it.”
Dayton compared the Mille Lacs emergency to disasters like tornadoes or floods, or the bird flu crisis this spring.
But top lawmakers say it’s not.
They’re calling for dramatic changes in the way the Department of Natural Resources manages the lake, even establishing a walleye hatchery to rescue Mille Lacs.
“If we don’t solve it long term, we’ll be looking at more short-term band aids, year after year, until we get the problem solved,” said Rep. Kurt Daudt, (R) Minnesota House Speaker.
Dayton’s fellow Democrats are equally tepid about a walleye session.
Some are concerned that a special session for Mille Lacs businesses could set a precedent: they say any business facing an economic slowdown could seek government relief.
But Dayton says lawmakers a making a mistake by not acting quickly on a serious economic problem.
“I’m frankly just astounded by this kind of misconduct,” Dayton said.