Where lies the responsibility for aquatic invasive species control?

By Liz Verley, Staff Writer

Who at the county level should take charge of the aquatic invasive species prevention aid money coming by Aug. 1?

“Not with my department. I am not going to pay a deputy $30 an hour to check boats,” said Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel. “I don’t think this has anything to do with Planning and Zoning either.”

Planning and Zoning Director Amy Kowalzek agreed.

For many years the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has handled the project, both by educating the public and inspecting boats at public landings.

The omnibus tax bill that was passed during the past legislative session includes a section addressing money which will be allocated to each county to “prevent the introduction or limit the spread of aquatic invasive species at all access sites within the county. The county must establish, by resolution or through adoption of a plan, guidelines for the use of the proceeds. The guidelines set by the county board may include, but are not limited to, providing for site-level management, countywide awareness and other procedures that the county finds necessary to achieve compliance.”

Morrison County’s share of the allotment will be $68,000 according to information shared at the commissioners’ planning session, Tuesday.

The county may appropriate the proceeds directly, or may use any portion of the proceeds to provide funding for a joint powers board or cooperative agreement with another political subdivision.

Auditor/Treasurer Russ Nygren explained that the formula used to determine each county’s allotment was according to how many public accesses were in each county. Morrison County has 28.

“This would appear to be an expansion of the DNR’s program,” said Deb Gruber, county administrator.

Nygren said, “The rules have not been written for the program yet. We should put the money aside until they are developed and then develop our plan.”

Commissioner Kevin Maurer suggested the possibility of joining with the eight counties that make up the Mississippi Headwaters to have them oversee the program. Another suggestion was to ask the DNR to administer the program.

No action was taken on the issue, but consensus was to wait and see what rules and regulations were attached to the money.

According to the legislation, $4.5 million has been appropriated for 2014, with $10 million each year thereafter.