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Lawmakers propose statewide moratorium on new public boat access

Two northern Minnesota lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ban the Department of Natural Resources from building any new public access areas on lakes and rivers.

The bills — introduced by Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and Rep. Dave Dill, DFL-Crane Lake — impose a moratorium on new DNR boat ramps until July 1, 2015.

The moratorium was the brainchild of a group of cabin and homeowners on 450-acre Big Pequaywan Lake north of Duluth who opposed a proposed DNR landing on their lake that currently has no public access.

Pequaywan property owners say the new landing would attract boats from lakes and rivers already contaminated with invasive species like zebra mussels, goby, ruffe, milfoil and even the fish-killing VHS disease — especially from nearby Lake Superior and the Twin Ports harbor.

The News Tribune first reported in August that the Pequaywan group was pushing Bakk and Dill, who represent the Pequaywan area, to introduce the moratorium. Supporters say the threat of invasive species trumps the public's right to access state-owned waters.


It's not clear how far the proposal will get in the legislature, but it is at least likely to get a hearing in the House: Dill is chairman of the subcommittee that considers new legislation on fishing, boating and the DNR.

DNR officials have said the group's push for a statewide moratorium is the first effort in Minnesota they're aware of to halt new boat landings because of the link to invasive species.

But DNR officials say they are under state mandate to use boat license money to keep building and improving the public's access for fishing, boating, canoeing and other recreation. The agency builds about 12 landings each year. The DNR has been negotiating with a Pequaywan Lake landowner to buy land for a boat ramp and parking lot.

DNR and Minnesota Sea Grant experts have said boats and trailers are only one way invasive species get into lakes. Others include bait, divers and even people who wade into the lakes.

Opponents to a moratorium say restricting new public access to lakes and rivers will do little to stop the spread of invasive species, noting that property owners on the lakes could import species via bait buckets or their own boats or guest's boats. They also note the legislation would not stop private landowners from building new boat access.

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