Monday, February 25, 2008

Strib Weighs In


This morning's Star Tribune carried an article on the dock platform issue. I have issues with the tone of the article, whose most extensive quotes were from Sen. Mary Olson and aquatic biologist Dann Siems, both outspoken critics of dock platforms.

According to Siems, the DNR "caved in to the wishes of the well-heeled few and compromised its mission to protect the public waters." This, of course, is not the case and Siems knows it. He sat on the Dock Advisory Committee where, according to another member (who also spoke to the press but was not quoted), Siems came with his own agenda opposed to any expansion of the 2002 regulations.

From a political point of view, couching the dock platform debate in terms of class warfare makes it easier to rabble rouse and generate support from elected officials who don't want to be seen as allowing the "well-heeled few" to divert the DNR from protecting Minnesota's natural resources enjoyed by the less-well-heeled many.

Siems next provided the Strib with a history lesson and a bit of sleight of hand that the reporter did not pick up on:

"Twenty years ago lakeshore owners typically had a narrow dock that could accommodate one or two boats. Today it's not uncommon for wealthy lakeshore owners to have a fishing boat, a pontoon, a speedboat for waterskiing, and a couple of personal watercraft, some or all of them covered by canopies."

Once again, it's the "wealthy lakeshore owners" threatening all that's right on the lakes. More subtly, Siems lays down the argument for limiting lakeshore owners' use of their property. Nothing in the 2008 General Permit prevents property owners from installing docks to accommodate a fishing boat, a pontoon, a speedboat for waterskiing, and a couple of personal watercraft. The 2002 DNR regulations also allow sufficient dockage to accommodate such a fleet, with canopies. But, as with the injection of class warfare into the "discussion", Siems chooses to promote his agenda for significant government intrusion into lakeshore owners' use and enjoyment of their property by disparaging the lakeshore owners' perceived success. The Strib should have called out Siems on the fact that nothing on the table now, regarding dock platform sizes, has anything to do with the number of boats or length of dock (less than 8 feet wide) lakeshore owners are allowed. Even the "aquatic impact area" written into the 2008 General Permit was offered only as a suggestion and is not mandated.

While I appreciate Siems' efforts to add credence to the mission of P.O.P.U.L.A.R., which has been warning that restricting dock platform size is merely the first step to significantly cutting back on lakeshore owners' rights, I wish he and others would ignore the temptation of engaging in intellectual dishonesty and preying on base instincts like jealousy as a means of generating support.

We know that, on the merits, any suggestion that the request for dock platforms wider than 8 feet is based on the desire for "party platforms" is nonsense. A quick review of the comments to this blog or the e-mails submitted to the DNR's Dock Advisory Committee makes it clear that safety and reasonable access are by far the most cited reasons for needing a larger dock. It's also clear that this is an issue that cuts across a wide range of economic lines. P.O.P.U.L.A.R.'s willingness to negotiate a permit for Legacy Docks, and require future development to comply with more restrictive configurations, addresses the concerns that there will be a major proliferation of "mega-docks".

If only 5 percent of the state's dock platforms are not in compliance with the 2008 General Permit (most, it is likely, by only a few square feet), as cited by DNR waters division director Kent Lokkesmoe in the Strib article, then acting now to allow Legacy Docks will address the concerns of Sen. Mary Olson, Dann Siems and others in a timely fashion.

I intend to send a letter to the editor of the Strib addressing these concerns. I also expect to have my follow-up discussions with Assistant Commissioner Kramka early this week. I'll keep you posted on both. Feel free to express yourself to the Strib. You might also want to comment on Dann Siems' blog and let him know that this is not about rich vs. poor. Remember to keep it accurate and to keep it civil. Finally, Rep. Denny McNamara, also quoted in the Strib article, has been very supportive of P.O.P.U.L.A.R.'s efforts and you should drop him a line and show your appreciation.

8 comments:

Sam Stern said...

This is from Gene Holderness, a POPULAR member and member of teh Dock Advisory Committee.

Once again, a publisher has it wrong. The attacking opponents, led, it seems, by Dann Siems of Bemidji, are using loaded words and untruths to drive perceptions and agenda. It seems that environmentalists have determined that hyperbole and personal attack are more effective than reasonable discussion among interested parties based on valid scientific data and dock configuration data. The STRIB interviewed at least three members of the Dock Advisory Group, because two were quoted and one (me) who was interviewed was not quoted. My views did not apparently tie with the STRIB's position on the issue, so rather than a balanced set of viewpoints they presented mostly one side. Not surprising if you have read this paper over 30 plus years.

Where they ever got the statement about "dinner parties" is beyond me. It sounds like a Dann statement, inflammatory, insulting and untrue. Dann had a number of those types of statements at the DAG meetings so it is not surprising that he would characterize it that way. Of course the paper did not attribute that to anyone.

The STRIB also used a loaded word "supersized" platform. Pretty clear that we won't get balanced perceptions or coverage from them, not that it would be expected.

The opponents say it "ruins the appearance of lakeshore", disrupts aquatic eco systems and prevents the public from fishing near shorelines. Let's examine these. "Appearance" is from those who seem to feel that all lakes should look like the boundary waters. It is an aesthetic viewpoint that we heard at the DAG repeatedly. It is not scientific, but personal. I think we don't legislate or make rules on personal taste, or at least we should not.

The disruption to aquatic systems was discussed ad nausea by the DAG and there was no valid science presented, including from the mouths of such activists as Dann Siems. We were supposed to accept on faith that their idea of what should happen with docks (total minimalist) should be law simply because they felt it should be, not because we could demonstrate benefits or harmful effects on either current use patterns or suggested new ones. Bad science. Bad politics. Bad Government. Dann and others of his ilk are those environmentalists who seem to view Man as the ultimate intruder and that if Man would just disappear, all would be well with the environment. His view of a dock seems to be short, narrow, unsafe and for many of us unusable. I think our political leaders need to listen to all viewpoints, including Dann's and then make sensible judgments in the middle.

As for preventing fishing near shorelines, that's not a bad idea. While the lakes are public waters, there ought to be give and take. After all, Lake Owners are the Public too!! How's that for a concept? The only difference is that many of us enter the water from our docks or the shore in front of our cabins, not from the public landing. There are hundreds of thousands members of the "public" who fit this category of lake users. The STRIB writes as if those coming in from the public landings are the only "public" Not true.

Mary Olson's statements are just silly. It is the liberal's traditional "logical extension" argument. Not everyone wants a big platform. In fact, the DNR never enforced any rules and by their own estimate only 5% of the platforms are even big enough today to be looked at under the permitting process. Thus, they feel that over 95% are already conforming. So where is Rep Olson's rhetoric coming from? Her hyperbole about dramatic changes is off the mark. She is from Bemidji so maybe there is a correlation. As for cleaning up waters, the lake owners associations have done way more than the DNR on this and have been very good about it. Self interest of lake owners is a much better motivator than rhetoric of environmental alarmists.

The 19 member committee refereed to by the STRIB was the DAG. There were four, maybe five non-environmental activists on the committee. So the DNR was enviro heavy in its setting up of the DAG and they are taking full frontal attacks from the enviros on the committee for not going far enough. To me, this is proof, as if any was needed, that there is no end to the demands of the true activists. That is why trying to work with them or develop sensible compromise, or informed policy, with them is a waste of effort. Folks like Dann and Mary should be left out of the conversation because they can't and don't come to the table with a respectful attitude but rather with nasty hyperbole that simply polarizes the issue and the interested people and does not lead to sensible solutions.

Dann's rhetoric about "caving in" to "well heeled" is the kind of diatribe that we are all so tired of. Until Dann and others want to dialogue constructively I think they should be left on the sidelines by the DNR and others. He goes on with the "wealthy lakeshore owners" label. Again, class baiting that has nothing to do with science.

Dann's biggest screw-up is saying that docks and accessories cover more than a third of the "near shore area" on "some lakes". Pretty equivocating language for such a broad accusation. The math does not come even close to standing up. Take a 100 foot dock, going out 50 feet to navigable water. That puts 5,000 square feet in the area close to shore and containing docks and boats. Pick the large type of configuration Dann suggests, and you come up with between 700 and 900 square feet, fully loaded. Hardly one-third. Further, the difference between the tightest rule for platforms (8 x 8 for 64 SF) and the 170 on the permit is 106 square feet, less that two-tenths of one percent of the total area on the lot.

To sum it up, it is ironic that the DNR loaded the DAG with environmentalist and agency folk and that even after working hard on it they are being attacked by folks on the extreme enviro side. We have not heard from the thousands of us who would like dock platforms of 200 square feet, as we have used and enjoyed for decades, to be okay. Sop much for balance and dialogue. The enviros resort to labeling and class warfare because the science and the math just don't make their case. Apparently if you yell long enough and "fib" long enough and loud enough, you just might influence public policy. What a shame.

This will be an interesting struggle. It is scientific, and political. A great mix. Thanks to POPULAR for what it is doing.

Tom L said...

Sam,

Just heard of your blog this morning from Jeff Fox. Great stuff. I am fully supportive of your work. I have a forum at: http://www.lakeminnetonkaforum.com

I am trying to get Minnetonka lakeshore owners up to speed on the issues effecting their property usage/rights. Many Minnetonka lakeshore owners are too busy being productive to keep up on these issues. Hopefully the internet will help us organize & stay informed. Currently I am invloved in the 3 bay project to eradicate milfoil on Tonka.

I look forward to reading more from you on your blog. keep up the great work!

Thomas Lowe
Carman Bay resident
Lake Minnetonka

Anonymous said...

Here ! Here ! to Gene's comments. Thanks Gene, Sam and Popular.

Anonymous said...

More proof that lake property owners are better stewards of the lake:

"...this was the first year I can remember that there was NOT any attempt to barricade the access to Round Lake...for the ice fishing tournament. Consequently, there were 200-250 vehicles parked on the ice. The drippings and trash from these vehicles isn’t doing the lake and shoreline any good."

Anonymous said...

To those of you that are frustrated with this stage in the process you can not give up or throw in the towel. The reason we have derelicts like Senator Olson and Dann Siems in our government is because people don't pay attention. We should hold ourselves to higher standard than Senator Olson and Mr Siems do and keep working so our voice can be heard. This is more than docks, and that is why the article was written like it was.
Great comments Gene and Keep up the good work Sam!

Bruce Larson said...

Sam & Gene,
You gentlemen have put time in and your comments are so well taken. I wish I could relate my thoughts so well. I support you 100% and could not agree more with your view of the retoric form the enviromental view who takes the non isues and characterize the issue as...... Party Platforms, Dinner Parties, Supersized, wealthy lakeshore owners, ruins the appearance of lakeshore and caving in to the well heeled.
Gene, you stated it so well. The enviros resort to labeling and class warfare because the science and the math just don't make their case. Thanks Guys .... BL

Anonymous said...

Does the DNR have an aerial survey of docks and their extensions? That would pinpoint the numbers that are concerned with the regulations. They have flown over my lake and counted the sizes of boats and motors in the past.

The inclusion of links in your blog to correct the inaccurate and loaded statements being made is a great help. It's unfortunate that anyone could believe Senator Olson or Dann Siems and his so-called scientific advice. The more statements they make, the more ridiculous their baseless arguments become.

Keep calling their bluff on it, you do it so well. I've written my thanks to Denny McNamara, e-mailed the reporter, and am grateful that the opposition has strengthened our arguments.

Thomas Lowe said...

Sam,

All POPULAR members need to visit Dann Siems blog. He is really letting his true colors show. Dann evidently harbors a sincere dislike of anyone with views differing from his own. His posts are riddled with sarcasm and disdane for us ignorant lakeshore owners. Quite disheartening.