Environment policy bill passed by House


Two days before the start of the fishing season, legislators took up a Senate policy bill about preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species and amended it into a much broader omnibus environment policy bill before passing it off the House floor 95-37.

As amended, HF1097/ SF1115* is on a fast track to gain Senate approval and be presented to the governor before he left for the fishing opener in Grand Rapids, according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings). Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) is the Senate sponsor.

“We need to get this bill over to the Senate and on to the governor,” McNamara said.

New recreation policies to slow the spread of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species would become effective the day following enactment if the bill is signed. There are 19 lakes in the state that are infested with non-native zebra mussels and “no one in here wants to become number 20,” said Rep. John Ward (DFL-Brainerd). An amendment offered by Ward to replace the bill language so that it simply included the aquatic invasive species provision was unsuccessful.

Several amendments were passed, including allowing Lutsen Ski Resort to continue to take water out of a trout stream for snowmaking purposes. As amended, the resort would be granted a permit to use up to 2 million gallons of water a day in a 30-day window from nearby Poplar trout stream. However, if water flow drops below a specified level, further draws would be suspended until flow levels increase. The five-year permit would give the resort time to design an alternative way to draw water out of Lake Superior, rather than the trout stream.

Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) successfully amended the bill so that a rural township could receive an easement for a road that crosses state school trust lands in St. Louis County. If the township doesn’t accept the easement, the cabin owner who built the access road would be eligible for a 20-year road lease across the state lands and the lease amount would be deposited into the permanent school trust fund.

Another amendment successfully offered by Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) would ensure that the Pollution Control Agency has no authority to regulate permits for the application of pesticides on land, except where authorized by federal law.