Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dock Bill Hearing In Senate Committee

I had the opportunity to testify today before the Minnesota Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. Senator Mary Olson's legislation discussed in yesterday's blog received a hearing. Senator Olson, Dann Siems and two other witnesses testified in favor of SF 3237 which would mandate rulemaking on structures in public waters (docks, dock platforms, boat lifts, canopies, etc.) and terminate the 2008 special permit before the start of the 2009 season. I testified when they were done but before the DNR representative was raked over the coals for allowing the whole problem to get out of hand by adopting and then ignoring regulations. As I sat listening to Senator Olson and Mr. Siems hold forth on the damage to the lakes' ecosystems visited upon the waters by my constituents, I felt like the little white ball in the photo above. Then I remembered, "we're right", and I became the mallet.

At the outset of her testimony, Senator Olson asked that her bill be amended to eliminate separate rulemaking and incorporate the required rulemaking into existing studies of shoreline management. The DNR was not happy with the amendment, contending that it would delay the shoreline management rulemaking and leave the DNR without sufficient funds to complete both. The committee chair, Sen. Chaudray, told the DNR representative that the $1 million allocation received last year for shoreline management rulemaking should be enough. The committee passed the bill out to the Local Government committee to deal with the rulemaking issue. There has been no action in the House.

When it was my turn to speak, before I got into my prepared remarks, I indicated that P.O.P.U.L.A.R. was concerned that rulemaking addressing our issues have enough time to fully cover the scope of the problem. I advised against being rushed or not adequately notifying the public as had been the case before. I believe the committee members understood my concern, especially as there was general agreement between me and Senator Olson that there had been a lack of real notice during the last go around. I was assured that shoreline management rulemaking had just started, was advised to get in touch with Public Waters at DNR (see you soon, Tom Hovey), and told that there was probably at least another 18 months to the process. If Senator Olson's bill passes as amended, it appears that we'll have time to gear up. I have a follow-up meeting with Assistant Commissioner Larry Kramka tomorrow to try to mitigate the impact of the 2008 General Permit. I'll be discussing this rulemaking issue with him when we meet.

My prepared remarks appear below. I'm including the written materials submitted in order to maintain a record on this blog of what was turned over to the committee today. If you've been reading the blog, you don't need to reread the submissions as they were all taken from earlier postings by me and by individuals leaving comments.

I'll write more after meeting with the DNR on Thursday. Several of you have asked about contributing to the cause to relieve the burden taken on by two P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members to pay for our efforts. I'll have some thoughts on that in my next blog as we are facing a protracted struggle to prevent dock platform opponents from legislating lakeshores back to virginity. Besides paying for my services, we may need to retain local counsel to challenge implementation of the General Permit and we'll definitely need to retain the services of someone to do scientific research to counter our adversaries. More on this tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are my prepared remarks:

Mr. Chairman, members of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, thank you for giving me this opportunity to testify today regarding Senate File 3237, which calls for rulemaking by the DNR to regulate structures in public waters.

My name is Sam Stern. I am an attorney representing an association of Property Owners Protecting Useful Lake Access Rights, or “P.O.P.U.L.A.R.” for short.

A little more than two months ago, I was asked by a client who owns lakeshore property to investigate pending DNR rules impacting docks and platforms. Recommendations of the DNR’s Dock Advisory Committee were anticipated by mid-January and my client and a few of his fellow lakeshore owners, who had all learned of the work of the Dock Advisory Committee after its public comment period was closed, were concerned about the impact of additional rule-making on their use and enjoyment of the public waters. Each of this handful of individuals had invested in dock structures long before the current regulations were implemented for the 2003 season. Each lakeshore property owner’s structure exceeded the 8-foot wide limitation of the subsequently adopted regulation. Having been clueless during the 2002 rule-making process and behind the curve with respect to the DNR’s public discussions in 2007, my client and his colleagues directed me to protect their interests.

Determined not to be overlooked again, like-minded lakeshore property owners, who, not incidentally, take their responsibilities as stewards of the public waters extremely seriously, have formed P.O.P.U.L.A.R. and are committed to assuring that any additional regulation of their use and enjoyment of the public waters is actually needed, avoids a “one size fits all” implementation across a plethora of geographic and environmental lakeshore configurations, recognizes historical uses of lakeshore property that often span multiple generations without degrading the public’s enjoyment of the lake, recognizes the importance of the marine and dock industries in Minnesota and the threats posed by unnecessarily restrictive regulation, acknowledges the economic impact enjoyed and relied upon by lakeshore jurisdictions as a result of the decision to allow development of lakeshore property in exchange for premium rates of taxation, weighs the benefits afforded shoreline by the utilization of docks, platforms and boatlifts, is based on sound scientific principles that do not measure aquatic impact against the assumption that the shoreline is otherwise undeveloped, and can be universally enforced consistent with Constitutional assurances of equal protection.

Membership in P.O.P.U.L.A.R. is easy. Send an e-mail to and ask to be put on the mailing list. Since early January, more than 250 Minnesotans have requested to be put on the P.O.P.U.L.A.R. mailing list. Many of the e-mail recipients forward communications to members of lake associations, giving P.O.P.U.L.A.R. an even wider audience. For example, since February 7th, P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members have been able to keep track of our efforts on P.O.P.U.L.A.R.’s blog, found at As of last night, in a little over a month, the blog had received 2,125 visits from 950 unique visitors.

I apologize for this long-winded background. However, it is important for the Committee to understand that this is an issue that cuts across socio-economic and partisan lines and is not being asserted by a few wealthy despoilers of the environment. Proponents of increased DNR regulations suggesting otherwise are engaging in rhetorical sleight of hand designed to mask the generally unacceptable consequences of their agenda. P.O.P.U.L.A.R. is not merely concerned with the size of allowed dock platforms. The association has grave reservations about the outcome of further rushed rule-making.

The “aquatic impact area” incorporated into the DNR’s 2008 General Permit, albeit on a discretionary basis, signals the direction unimpeded new regulations would lead. A lakeshore property owner’s entire impact on the public waters is limited under the AIA to the lesser of 50 feet or one half the length of their shoreline. In other words, someone with 200 feet of shoreline is allowed the same 50-foot impact as someone with 100 feet of shoreline. The owner of a typical 60-foot shoreline lot would be allowed to impact 30 feet. Given the 8-foot width allowed for docks, and assuming ownership of a 10-foot wide pontoon boat, the owner of a typical 60-foot shoreline lot would be hard pressed to safely utilize the balance of his or her impact area for a swimming beach and might or might not be able to use existing accessory structures, like a boat lift.

If the Committee believes more than 2,000 visits to a new blog in a month is impressive, imagine the response that will be generated when a couple hundred thousand lakeshore owners are told to reduce the length of their docks, the number of their watercraft, and the use of accessories like boat lifts or canopies. Consider the economic impact on a vital marine industry faced with regulatory impediments to the sale of additional watercraft.

P.O.P.U.L.A.R. believes that Senate File 3237 should be amended in two ways. First, it should give the DNR at least three years to undertake meaningful scientific and economic studies to determine the impact of additional regulation on public waters and the public, a group that includes lakeshore property owners. Forcing rule-making within a year on an agency that already determined it did not have the finances or personnel to follow the recommendations of its Dock Advisory Committee and engage in rule-making this year will only lead to a hurried and publicly unacceptable outcome.

Second, the legislature should mandate that any new rule-making by the DNR that limits the use and enjoyment of lakeshore property should provide for:
a. “legacy docks”, initially installed prior to the 2003 season, up to the size of the dock last installed prior to 2008;
b. allowance of dock platforms of 200 square feet, exclusive of the last dock extension, thereby enabling lakeshore property owners to utilize either 4 foot or 5 foot wide dock sections (i.e., five 4’x10’ or four 5’x10’ sections);
c. issuance of permits to persons who installed non-compliant docks between 2003 to 2008, up to the size of the dock last installed prior to 2008, where specific needs criteria relating to safety, lake access or shoreline configuration are met;
d. abatement of property taxes to the extent limitations on the amount of usable shoreline are imposed, determined by applying the same formula to the amount of abandoned shoreline previously used by the relevant tax assessor to impose an enhanced valuation for tax purposes on the same linear footage; and
e. compensation for rendering currently legal dock configurations obsolete.

I recognize that some of these suggestions might seem a little radical. From a lakeshore property owner’s point of view, they are no more radical than the suggestion that the State has the right to involuntarily deprive the property owner of the use and enjoyment of their lakeshore after years (or decades) of quiet enjoyment, good aquatic stewardship and no discernable negative impact.

Cognizant of the Committee’s limited time for testimony, and with the Chair’s permission, I would like to augment my testimony with written submissions, consisting of correspondence received from, and blog comments posted by, P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members, who, more eloquently than I, make their case for limited government intrusion. In addition, I am including excerpts from P.O.P.U.L.A.R.’s blog that outline our position on the issues and respond to our opponents’ concerns. Please note that the anonymous nature of the blog comments was necessitated by a combination of the fear of retribution for acknowledged non-compliance and the technology behind the publication of the blog that makes anonymity the least onerous means of posting a comment.

Thank you for your consideration of the viewpoint of P.O.P.U.L.A.R.


P.O.P.U.L.A.R. Blog, February 7, 2008 (excerpts):

We formed P.O.P.U.L.A.R. as a means to focus the efforts of property owners interested in this issue. P.O.P.U.L.A.R. is an unincorporated association. If you want to be a member, you're a member. We recognize that with hundreds of thousands of lakeshore property owners in the State of Minnesota, we will not reach unanimous agreement on all issues affecting lakeshore property rights. However, by working together in areas of common interests, and forcing public officials responsible to their constituents to feel the heat of our sheer numbers, we believe we can achieve our goals and limit the government's intrusion with unnecessary regulations.

We hope to reach some resolution of the difficulties posed by the 2008 General Permit issued by the DNR on January 24th as quickly as possible. We are aware that P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members would like some direction prior to the start of the 2008 season. Today, I had several meetings at the Capitol. The meetings included discussions with Governor Pawlenty's office and with legislative leaders. The consensus that came out of the meetings was that this remains first and foremost a DNR issue. The governor's office is arranging a meeting for me with the Deputy Commissioner of the DNR. The letters and e-mails that have been sent out by P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members are having a positive effect insofar as the administration is open to discussion and knows it cannot merely pay lip service to the concerns of the thousands of lakeshore owners our message reaches.

We have been highlighting the following points:
1. It ain't broke; don't fix it.
2. The DNR has no scientific studies to back up the decision to restrict the size of dock platforms. The Dock Advisory Committee noted the need for more information in its final recommendations. The study that was referred to in the Dock Advisory Committee's town hall presentations focused on the differences in aquatic environments resulting from allowing a pristine lake to be developed, not the incremental changes resulting from the installation of docks once development occurred.
2. It does not make sense to impose the same regulations for all lakes.
3. It is unfair not to grandfather in existing structures, at least up to some reasonable size, for lakeshore owners who have had the structures in place since before the regulations were adopted in 2002.
4. It is unfair not to allow lakeshore owners who installed dock platforms after 2002 to retain them insofar as the new regulations were adopted without adequate notice, ignored with respect to enforcement and included permitting procedures that were not followed by the DNR.
5. The inclusion of an "Aquatic Impact Area" as a condition in the 2008 General Permit is the first step towards significantly more onerous restrictions on the use and enjoyment of lakes by lakeshore property owners. Although currently discretionary because the DNR did not want to go through formal rulemaking, the DNR's history of moving towards increase restrictions makes it likely that there will be an attempt to mandate the Aquatic Impact Area in the future.
6. Lakeshore property owners stand to lose thousands of dollars on obsolete dock sections if the 2008 General Permit is enforced.
7. There is no way to effectively enforce the 2008 General Permit. The DNR has indicated enforcement will vary by county since some county attorneys refuse to prosecute dock size violations. The DNR has also indicated that it does not have the resources to patrol every lake in Minnesota to assure compliance with the 2008 General Permit. The inability to uniformly enforce the 2008 General Permit renders it constitutionally deficient.
8. Property taxes are based on the length of shoreline owned. If the DNR is allowed to tell someone with 200 feet of shoreline that he or she can have no greater use than the neighbor with 100 feet of shoreline, an unavoidable result from imposition of an Aquatic Impact Area regulation, then taxes on the longer shoreline should be reduced. As we neither expect that or H*ll to freeze over, more onerous regulations that will have the limiting affect described should not be allowed.
9. This is a non-partisan issue. P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members range from owners of large homes on well-developed lakes to owners of small cabins that have been in the family for generations located on more pristine lakes.

“2008 General Permit for Dock Platforms Issued”, February 9, 2008 (excerpts):

I thought it might be helpful to provide some additional background for lakeshore property owners and other interested parties who are just becoming aware of the newest DNR regulations and P.O.P.U.L.A.R.'s efforts to curtail their impact.

On January 23, 2008, the DNR, in theory responding to the recommendations of the Dock Advisory Committee it established to study the issue of dock platforms on Minnesota lakes and to advise the DNR on how to address the proliferation of structures that technically violated the 2002 regulations on dock size, issued a new general permit addressing the issue. The general permit applies to dock structures on lakes with General or Recreational Shoreline Development classifications.

Any dock platform on such a lake that does not exceed the dimensions in the new general permit (and complies with other standard conditions such as not interfering with navigation) can be installed without a permit. All other dock platforms that exceed 8 feet of width need a special permit.

The 2008 general permit sets forth a number of conditions, including recommending adherence to the concept of an "Aquatic Impact Area", within which any impact on the public waters by a lakeshore owner is to be limited to an area equal to the lesser of 50 feet or 1/2 the length of shoreline owned wide out to 4 feet of depth. At this point, adherence to the guidelines of the Aqauatic Impact Area is NOT mandated, merely suggested.

At the end of last month, P.O.P.U.L.A.R. distributed a lengthy memo discussing the 2008 permit and my meeting with Tom Hovey at DNR to discuss the same, as well as an executive summary. These documents are posted below for review and easier access and distribution.

Crow Wing County residents should be aware that County Attorney Don Ryan has been asked by a number of P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members if he intends to prosecute violations of DNR dock size regulations when cited by the DNR. Mr. Ryan's response is that his office is formulating its position and will be meeting with the DNR. The fact that the office is unable to merely acknowledge that it will assist in enforcing the new law by prosecuting violators gives some sense of how overwhelmed the office anticipates being if enforcement is pursued and, hopefully, a recognition that there are higher priority issues that it should address with its limited resources. We'll keep you posted on developments with that office.

Also, on Thursday of this week, I met with Josh Gackel, the Pawlenty Administration's policy advisor on DNR issues, to discuss our concerns. Mr. Gackel indicated that the governor is well aware of the level of concern in the community over the new DNR regulations. He agreed with me that this is a non-partisan issue, affecting Minnesotans across the board regardless of political persuasion. Discussions are continuing and I'll post more information as anything more concrete develops. Legislative leaders I spoke to believe that our attention should first be directed to the DNR but were open to further discussion in the event that legislation was introduced impacting our position.

Here are copies of the correspondence circulated from P.O.P.U.L.A.R. on January 28, 2008:

Executive Summary
Accompanying this executive summary memorandum you will find a rather lengthy letter describing the January 23, 2008 General Permit issued by the DNR (No. 2008-0401), an overview of my January 24th meeting with the DNR’s Tom Hovey and a call to action. I urge you to read the correspondence in its entirety, along with the General Permit itself.
In the meantime, please consider this memo a shorthand version of the information in the January 23rd correspondence for those of you in need of a quick read.
1. The General Permit allows dock platforms of no more than 120 square feet, not counting the last dock section extension. It applies only on lakes with General or Recreational Development shoreland lake classifications. Property owners on lakes otherwise classified will need to obtain a separate permit from the DNR if their dock/platform exceeds 8 feet in any dimension.
2. The General Permit replaces last year’s permit that allowed dock platforms of up to 170 square feet and is in response to the recommendations of the DNR’s Dock Advisory Committee. The 120 square foot limit represents the lowest end of the recommendations.
3. The General Permit includes a number of conditions on permittees if they rely on the General Permit to install a platform wider than 8 feet. These include granting the DNR access inspect the dock/platform and establishing an “Aquatic Impact Area” intended to minimize the shoreline property owner’s impact on the lake.
4. The “Aquatic Impact Area” is, in and of itself, merely a suggestion and not a mandate. However, Condition 11, in which it appears, does mandate that “docks and dock platforms shall be the minimum size necessary to meet the water related needs of the permittee.” There is no assurance that future rulemaking will not mandate the imposition of the Aquatic Impact Area. There is some concern that DNR may use the minimum size language to cite property owners with larger than “necessary” dock structures.
5. DNR will require permits for any non-conforming dock structure for property owners who can demonstrate a need and/or other justification. However, DNR is unable to provide assurance that permits will be available in any greater quantity that they were previously.
6. DNR will be stepping up enforcement of dock regulations but cannot adequately regulate all properties. DNR acknowledges that its past failure to enforce regulations has led to a situation where property owners invested in dock structures that were technically non-conforming but were ignored and used without incident for years. Enforcement will take the form of cease & desist orders, tickets and/or warnings.
7. DNR expects legislation to be introduced to modify the General Permit by both sides of the regulatory issue. DNR does not have current plans, absent a legislative directive, to engage in future rulemaking.
8. P.O.P.U.L.A.R. will continue to organize opponents of the regulations and seeks sympathetic legislators to assist in controlling DNR’s attempt at regulatory expansion. Please read the Call to Action at the end of the January 28, 2008 letter to learn how to help!

January 28, 2008 Letter to P.O.P.U.L.A.R. Members
Dear P.O.P.U.L.A.R. Supporters and Other Interested Parties:

I am writing to update you on developments in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources efforts to control dock and dock platform sizes and to “protect Minnesota’s shorelines” and assure “minimal impact on public waters”.

On Wednesday, January 23rd, the DNR issued General Permit 2008-0401 (the “General Permit”), which replaces last year’s permit addressing dock platform sizes and sets the standard until “November 30, 2012 or when new regulations regarding structures in public waters take effect.” The General Permit was issued in response to the work of DNR’s dock advisory committee (the “Committee”), including public comments assembled by the Committee, and recommendations from the Committee.

Everyone on P.O.P.U.L.A.R.’s e-mail list received a copy of the General Permit and DNR Waters Director Kent Lokkesmoe’s accompanying correspondence on January 23rd. Hopefully, you have had a chance to read it. If you haven’t, please do. Here are the salient points.

• The General Permit is designed to provide exceptions to existing DNR regulations governing dock/dock platform sizes that limit the width of any dock to 8 feet.

• The General Permit applies only to lakes with General Development or Recreational Development shoreland classification. If you live on a lake otherwise classified, you need to obtain a separate permit from the DNR to install a dock/dock platform wider than 8 feet in any direction. Shoreland lake classification information can be found on the Web at

• The General Permit allows installation of a dock platform that is no more than 120 square feet, exclusive of the access dock, or no more than 170 square feet, including the access dock, which cannot be wider than 5 feet. Effectively, if you are using 5x10 foot dock sections to create the platform and relying on the General Permit, the platform can only be 10x10, or 100 square feet exclusive of the access dock, because a platform encompassing 3 5x10 sections would amount to 150 square feet, 30 more than allowed under the General Permit. To get to the fully allowed 170 square feet, you would need to use 3 4x10 sections (120 square feet) plus a 5x10 access dock.

• The General Permit adopts the concept of an Aquatic Impact Area as a condition of the General Permit, intended to give guidance, but not mandate, the manner in which a shoreline owner’s impact on the lake can be minimized. Condition 11 reads as follows:
"Docks and dock platforms shall be the minimum size necessary to meet the water related needs of the permittee. Docks generally should not extend to water depths greater than 4 feet. Typically, all structures and shoreline modifications (including docks, platforms, boat lifts, canopies, sand blankets, and aquatic plant removal) should be completely contained in an Aquatic Impact Area, defined for this general permit, as an area up to 50 feet wide along the shoreline or one-half the width of the lot, whichever is less, and extends waterward to a 4’ water depth so that lateral and lakeward encroachment into a Public Water is only necessary to achieve water-oriented recreational needs. The structures must not obstruct navigation." (emphasis added to illustrate items that are mandated as opposed to suggested under the General Permit)

• The General Permit conditions its use on the agreement by the permittee to “grant access to the site at all reasonable times during and after construction to authorized representatives of the Commissioner of Natural Resources for inspection of the work authorized” under the General Permit.

• The County Board of a Lake Conservation District may adopt a resolution prohibiting application of the General Permit in the District. Information regarding Districts that adopt such resolutions will be available at Without the ability of the General Permit in a particular Lake Conservation District, shoreline owners could find themselves faced with having to abide by existing DNR regulations and the 8-foot width limitation.

• Again, please read the terms and conditions of the General Permit in their entirety. If you did not receive a copy from P.O.P.U.L.A.R., you can read a copy at It’s the first link under the “New Information Concerning Docks” section.

Meeting with the DNR
As luck would have it, prior to the issuance of the General Permit, I had scheduled a meeting with Tom Hovey for Thursday, January 24th. Mr. Hovey is the DNR employee who headed up the work of the Dock Advisory Committee. The plan was to meet, address some concerns that Mr. Hovey had expressed about the accuracy of previous P.O.P.U.L.A.R. communications and, from our point of view, let him and the DNR know how passionate P.O.P.U.L.A.R. was about the need for reasonableness in DNR regulations. With the issuance of the General Permit, we had additional items to address during our two-hour meeting.

The wide range of issues Mr. Hovey and I discussed during our meeting are summarized below.
Aquatic Impact Area
I asked Mr. Hovey how DNR could impose the requirement for an aquatic impact area (“AIA”) without going through formal rulemaking. Mr. Hovey pointed out that because the language is advisory, “should” not “shall” establish the AIA, the DNR felt it was not necessary to engage in rulemaking. According to Mr. Hovey, the advisory on restricting impact to the AIA resulted from a desire by people on “both sides of the issue” to minimize the impact of development on the lakes. Apparently, there was considerable discussion during the Dock Advisory Committee meetings that merely addressing dock platform sizes would not provide adequate protection to the aquatic environment without restrictions on docks, boatlifts, canopies, boats, etc. Including the suggestion to establish an AIA was an effort to address those concerns. The 50-foot maximum length was intended to mirror existing sand blanket regulations.

Mr. Hovey acknowledged that the DNR could decide to make the AIA mandatory but would have to go through the rulemaking process to do so. As noted below, he does not believe the DNR will engage in any new rulemaking in the next several years. In the meantime, the DNR cannot force shoreline owners to limit the AIA to the dimensions referred to in the General Permit.
Dock Platform Size
The General Permit does not change the regulations that had been in place since 2002. There is no permit needed if no dimension of a dock exceeds 8 feet. The General Permit allows dock platforms in excess of 8 feet wide up to the 120 square feet described above. A special permit will be needed from the DNR in order to be able to install a dock platform that exceeds 120 square feet in size.

A permit can be applied for in case of non-conforming use. Mr. Hovey believes, but cannot assure, that the DNR will be more open to issuing permits based on individual circumstances. He used welded docks that cannot be reconfigured as an example. Mr. Hovey also thought that property owners who wanted to continue to use a platform configuration that had been in place since before 1978, when regulations first went into place, should be able to get a special permit.

DNR’s enforcement division signed off on the General Permit. According to Mr. Hovey, more attention will be paid to enforcing existing regulations and compliance with the General Permit. Mr. Hovey acknowledged that the DNR’s lack of past enforcement contributed to the current situation in which shoreline property owners felt entitled to install non-conforming docks and platforms. While insisting that there will not be “dock cops”, enforcement will vary county by county, as some county attorneys have refused to prosecute dock size violations. Mr. Hovey expects enforcement to be in form of orders to cease & desist, tickets or warnings. However, the DNR’s limited resources preclude strict enforcement. Mr. Hovey felt that the DNR would start by first citing the most “egregious” offenders with the largest dock platforms.

Need for Regulation/Grandfathering
Although there has not been significant enforcement in the past of the DNR’s regulations regarding impact on the public waters by shoreline property owners, Mr. Hovey believes the growth in the size of boats, docks and population mandates regulation now to protect the future status of lakes. Lakes are becoming more cluttered giving rise to circus like appearance with proliferation of dock slipcovers. Mr. Hovey acknowledged that there is no scientific evidence that any particular structure negatively impacts the aquatic environment or the health of a lake. However, the DNR is concerned that the cumulative effect of all structures must, as a matter of logic, contribute to the declining health of the lake.

This led to a discussion of grandfathering in existing structures since the concern for the future seemed to be about what might develop, not what exists per se. Mr. Hovey thought that allowing pre-1978 (i.e., pre-regulation) dock platforms to have a special permit makes sense. He entertained my suggestion that, possibly, there could be some changes to the General Permit to allow grandfathering where shoreline owners relied on non-enforcement (part of “plenty of blame to go around” scenario). This might serve as justification for a special permit. Stricter enforcement would be imposed on new structures.

Property Taxes
I told Mr. Hovey that it was disingenuous to deny that shoreline property owners were being taxed based on their perceived, by assessors, access to their lakeshore. Mr. Hovey argued initially that the mere access to public waters generates the higher tax assessment.
However, when I used the example of two identical homes properly set back on two lots with different lengths of shoreline but equal total square footage, he agreed that, everything else being equal, merely owning additional shoreline would result in higher property taxes. Accordingly, imposing identical limits on each property owner (e.g., a fifty foot wide AIA), ought to result in a reduction in property taxes for the higher taxed property since the owner’s effective ability to access the public waters was being curtailed to the level of the parcel with less shoreline.

Tailoring Regulations
Mr. Hovey was clear that the State of Minnesota lacks the resources to regulate lakes individually and, therefore, cannot modify regulations based on the nature and use of each lake. He said, however, that the DNR might accept lake management plans developed from local lake associations (a lake improvement district) that proposed specific regulations for individual lakes. These could be used to modify restrictions based on the character of the individual lake.

Additional Rulemaking
As noted above, Mr. Hovey doesn’t anticipate rulemaking this year. He said that the DNR is tied up with Wild & Scenic River and Shoreline Management regulations. Information on these rulemaking procedures are on the DNR’s website. According to Mr. Hovey, the DNR’s limited resources preclude engaging in additional rulemaking at this time. Mr. Hovey also expressed his opinion that P.O.P.U.L.A.R.’s concern about the adoption of highly restrictive regulations is misguided. He believes, for example, that it would not be possible to regulate the number of watercraft a shoreline owner was allowed to keep on his or her property. However, he acknowledged that there are some proponents of significant additional restrictions and that he cannot say for sure to what extent they might be ultimately successful.

Mr. Hovey had heard that proponents and opponents of dock platform regulation had both planned to have legislation introduced in the next session to support their respective position. Legislation, if passed, would have the effect of directing the DNR to take one action or another. Accordingly, even though the DNR has no current plans to engage in new rulemaking on the dock platform or lake impact issues, pressure from the public and actions by the legislature, could change those plans.

Call to Action
In less than a month, P.O.P.U.L.A.R. has been able to raise shoreline owner’s awareness of the DNR’s intent to more vigorously regulate the use and enjoyment of the lakeshore. Moreover, the outcry from shoreline owners in the past month has been in marked contrast to the general silence that met the DNR’s announced study of dock platform and aquatic impact issues early in and throughout 2007.

We believe that there are reasonable compromises to be had between the DNR’s proposed limits on dock platform sizes, which may or may not lend themselves to the issuance of special permits, and regulations that address the individual needs of lakeshore property owners and take the historical use of lakefront property into consideration.

P.O.P.U.L.A.R. intends to identify sympathetic legislators who will work with us to draft legislation directing the DNR to modify its newly imposed restrictions and keep the DNR from imposing any additional restrictions, particularly as they might be applied to current shoreline property owners. In order to demonstrate the breadth and depth of the public’s concern on the issue, it is imperative that all P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members let their respective state senators and representatives know that this is an issue of concern to more than the “hundreds” who made their concerns known to the DNR prior to the issuance of the General Permit. By some accounts, there are more than 250,000 shoreline owners in Minnesota. Not many of them had been clamoring for an increase in the DNR’s regulations of the use and enjoyment of their respective lakeshore.

To be a part of this movement, P.O.P.U.L.A.R. needs you to:
• Send a copy of this correspondence to everyone you know who has an interest in limiting the DNR’s regulation of lakeshore. Make sure members of your lakeshore owners association are aware of the General Permit and determine the level of support for an effort to modify the General Permit so that it is less restrictive.

• Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Make the point that while some regulation might be justified, the vast majority of shoreline owners are better stewards of the lakes than the visiting public and have a vested interest in the ongoing health of the public waters on which their property lies. Point out that any attempts to portray the issue as one of class warfare does a disservice to the integrity of the majority of shoreline property owners whose interests in the property are often multi-generational.

• Contact your state senator and representative and ask them to support the work of P.O.P.U.L.A.R. and legislation that limits the DNR’s regulation of private property. If you don’t know who your legislator is, go to and click on the “Who Represents Me?” link.

• Keep P.O.P.U.L.A.R. informed of progress made with public officials and identify any legislators willing to work with P.O.P.U.L.A.R. to carry remedial legislation.

• Send copies of your letters on the issue to P.O.P.U.L.A.R. at or by facsimile to 763-201-7899.

• Watch for future communications from P.O.P.U.L.A.R. regarding
• the drafting of legislation supporting our position and be prepared to assist with testimony regarding your particular circumstances before the legislature,
• the circulation of petitions to clearly demonstrate the intensity of the opposition to the General Permit and to the enforcement of regulations beyond what is needed to maintain healthy public waters,
• organizational meetings to better focus our activities and identify goals to be pursued,
• the establishment of a political action committee to encourage public servants to respond to P.O.P.U.L.A.R.’s concerns, and
• other matters of interest to persons concerned about the DNR’s activities.

“Calling All Evil Doers”, February 21, 2008 (excerpts):

It's confession time.

I do not own lakeshore property. I am in the class of people who find it more convenient to have friends who own lakeshore property than to be bothered with opening and closing the cabin each season, struggling with the installation and removal of unwieldy dock sections in nearly frozen water twice a year, contemplating the installation of a revolving door to accommodate the flow of family and folks like me, spending more on beer for my refrigerator than on hay for my horses or commuting weekly to "Up North" in traffic jams that rival the weekday experience on I-394 at 5:00 p.m.

With this point of view in mind, a point of view that admires the commitment P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members make to their lakeshore properties, notwithstanding the suffering I choose to avoid, I am shocked, shocked!, to discover that I am representing the interests of hundreds of scofflaws, Hell bent to flaunt an illegal lifestyle by covering up a patch of water wider than 8 feet during 5 months of the year.

I'm not sure how this happened. Typically, my clients all wear white hats, attend church or synagogue regularly, pay their taxes, and use me to pursue claims or resolve issues that they would unashamedly describe to their 80 year-old grandparents at Thanksgiving dinner. Apparently, that's changed.

Senator Mary Olson, in a letter to a P.O.P.U.L.A.R. member explaining her opposition to dock platforms, declared her belief that it would be an inappropriate to condone illegal behavior by grandfathering in dock platforms that violated the 2002 regulations limiting dock width to 8 feet.

In response to a February 15th editorial in the Becker Tribune that called for the allowance of dock platforms, Henry V (not the former king of England; "V" is the first initial of his last name) commented:

“Intersting. (sic) The editorial totally failed to mention that large platforms are illegal under the law. They are not allowed. The DNR's general permit grants amnesty for illegal activity. Issuing general permits to change the law is no way to regulate activites (sic) that can have negative impacts on aquatic resources. We do not raise the speed limit because cars can go faster, we do not make zoning ordinances more liberal because people can place buildings closer to the lake or build higher that height requirements. Just because we can put up large platforms does not mean that we should change the law to accomodate. (sic) We are talking about placing private structures in public waters owned by all citizens. If we need to change the law then there is a proper way to do that.”

Dann Siems, an aquatic biologist from Bemidji who publishes a blog and served on the DNR's Dock Advisory Committee last year, expressed his disapproval of the issuance of the 2008 General Permit as a contravention of DAC recommendations, particularly as it legitimized illegal behavior by lakeshore owners:

In the first paragraph of our final report, we “expressed significant reservations about the wisdom of re-issuing another general permit for dock platforms, feeling that doing so might be considered an after-the-fact variance for platform docks.” Such patio platforms are illegal under existing DNR rules. A majority of DAC members felt that recommending “any sort of General Permit for platform docks would make them complicit in the degradation of aquatic habitat, the further destruction of the natural shoreline character, and the erosion of the ‘public’ nature of Minnesota waters.”

As a relevant aside, I should point out that I've tried to be extremely accurate as I generate information in support of P.O.P.U.L.A.R.'s issues. I do not want the substance of any argument to be undermined by relying on erroneous information to form its basis. I have asked the DNR to correct me if they read anything written by me that is inaccurate in any way. In light of this cautious practice, I feel justified identifying flaws in opponents' logic, especially when that logic itself relies on a misstatement of the facts.

Dann Siems, for example, cherry-picks language from the DAC final recommendations in making his point in his blog. While it's true the introduction to the final recommendations noted that most members of the DAC were against a new permit, the document went on to outline consensus recommendations, which included parameters for a new General Permit should the DNR decide to issue one. The introductory caution was, for the most part, a reflection of the anti-dock platform stacking of the DAC and should not be construed as the official recommendation of the DAC.

Given my conviction that my clients wear white hats, attend church or synagogue regularly, etc., I knew there had to be flaw in the claim that P.O.P.U.L.A.R. consisted of a large group of law breakers. The flaw lies in the inaccuracy of describing dock platform owners as knowingly engaging in illegal behavior under 2002 (and still current) DNR regulations limiting dock width to 8 feet if outside the scope of the General Permits of 2007 and 2008.

The vast majority of P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members have had their dock platforms since before 2002. One member sent me the DNR brochure entitled "Work That Can Be Done Without a Permit" published prior to the issuance of the 2002 rules. In other words, the brochure represents the official communication by the DNR Division of Waters to, among others, lakeshore owners looking for guidance on limits the law imposes on their ability to install dock platforms. Here's what the brochure says about "Seasonal Docks" (a temporal distinction eliminated in 2002):

"These projects will not require permits from the DNR provided all listed conditions are met.
Project Restrictions
. . .
Seasonal Docks and Floating Structures
•Removed from water on a seasonal basis (before winter freeze-up)
•All components removable form lake or stream bed by nonmechanized means
•Will not be a hazard to navigation or endanger public health and safety
•Site is not a posted fish spawning area
•Will not include fuel handling or sewage facilities
•Is not used or intended to be used for human habitation, as a boathouse or as a marina
•Allows for free flow of water beneath it"

That's it. Nothing about size restrictions. No admonishment against configuring dock sections for anything other than accessing navigable waters and boarding a boat. Short version might be "Take it out in the winter and don't use it for a bathroom". Future members of P.O.P.U.L.A.R., law abiding citizens all, built platforms and used them for years (decades in some instances) in full view of the DNR and local hydrologists without interference or other challenge.

To now baldly assert, in support of eliminating the structures, that all dock platform owners have been engaging in illegal activity and should not be legitimized, ignores the reality of pre-2003 law. Since the 2002 regulations were issued at the end of the 2002 season, the 8 foot restriction was only in effect in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 before the 2007 General Permit allowed platforms of up to 170 square feet.

Minnesota is celebrating it's 150th year of statehood this year. This means a few things. It means I'm getting old because I remember hearing about the centennial celebration in grade school. It also means that dock platforms have only been "illegal" for 2.7% of the time Minnesota has been a State. Finally, it means that dock platform opponents who oppose formulating a solution to the dispute that incorporates grandfathering in legacy docks because of their so-called "illegality" are engaging in smear campaigns for the lack of a substantive, accurate argument.

As a member of P.O.P.U.L.A.R., you should take the time to respond to unfavorable editorials and published comments of opponents. You should continue to contact your legislators and other public officials and make your position known. Names and addresses of legislators can be found by clicking on the "Who Represents Me?" link at You should continue to hold public servants accountable for being accurate in their discussions on this issue.

I'll follow-up in a few days with a report on my next discussions with the DNR. I've had brief initial discussions with other attorneys in the group about litigating to stop enforcement of the size restrictions should we fail to reach agreement with the DNR. We cannot expect much help from the legislature as everyone seems to be trying to "out green" one another and we'll be sure to see environmental advocates line up against us (ironically, against the REAL stewards of the lakes).

P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members with dock platforms that were first installed after 2002 should take heart. I think of you as white hatted, God-fearing members, too. You'll just have to be the subject of a subsequent blog, "What if They Passed a Regulation and Nobody Enforced It?"

“Strib Weighs In”, February 25, 2008:

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.

Blog Comments and e-Mails from P.O.P.U.L.A.R. Members:

We have had a cabin on Gull Lake for over 50 years. Per the new ordinance, it appears that we have had a non-compliance dock since the early 60's. At the end of our dock, we have a small 10' x 20' platform which we enjoy immensely. The platform serves many purposes; it serves as a barrier to the swimming area to protect my grand children from boating traffic and it serves as a place to load unload people from our 25 foot pontoon boat and/or a place for visitors to dock their boat. It's a great place to entertain, swim, fish, sit and it appears to be a haven for fish. We have coffee in the morning and a glass of wine at night on our platform. This platform is an integral part of our lake home...I'd like to increase this platform to 10' x 25', not make it smallerI believe that the DNR needs to do some research and get lake owner's input before passing these trivial policies. Let's focus our energy and taxpayer dollars on items such as milfoil, zebra mussels, water pollution clarity, boating safety, etc.

In reading this blog and learning more of the process that got this issue to where it is now and the political opposition that has appeared from Senator Mary Olsen, I wonder what it is that has got those like her and the DNR so fired up. This was not an issue or a problem and I had not even heard a rumbling about it. Regardless it is an issue now and lakeshore owners are being made out to be bad guys. If those on the lakes think this is the only issue they will be mistaken. After docks will come the # of boat allowed and the use restrictions. I used to love Minnesota. There are other options.

Sam Gene (Holderman, Dock Advisory Committee member),
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 rhetoric form the environmental view who takes the non issues and characterize the issue as...... Party Platforms, Dinner Parties, Super-sized, 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 .... Bruce Larson

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!

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.

Regarding the comment that legislators may not help because some are trying to out "green" themselves-then folks ought to remember them in this election year. This is an important issue which effects not only our family use of the lake but also the value of Minnesota lakeshore. The powers to be should resolve this issue before the ice goes out !

It appears that progress was made in that meeting in-between. Your thorough notes are reassuring, I almost felt like I was there. I don't understand how the 170 square foot limit was arrived at. It isn't evenly divisible with a lot of docks between 4 and 5 feet wide. I guess they initially thought the 8' rule fair, but the marketplace must not have been part of the equation. My perception is that the DNR is determined for all to adhere (eventually) to that 8' maximum. All the posturing looks like they will only temporarily be lenient. I hope I'm wrong, but since people are upset, that could be one of the reasons for it. That, and the sudden enforcement of regulations on docks that had been there for years that they never objected to before (just curious as to why 12 people were cited, not given a warning, and not everyone treated equally?). If I didn't have a LOT of respect for the DNR and the tough job they have to do, I wouldn't feel so ill-served by what has happened. Wasn't that thoughtful of Senator Olson to credit to us the idea to turn potentially unusable dock sections into lakeshore decking?? :( What a negative attitude for the Senator to take, like we are deliberately out to make trouble. Sorry to disappoint you, Senator, but that's not our idea of a solution. The more accurate term of "legacy dock" is right where we find ourselves. I'd be glad to provide photos to be granted a permanent understanding. I would like some assurance that I won't be indicted if I do that, as prosecuting County Attorney's offices are on record as ready to file. I'm encouraged that Mr. Kramka is conveying these concerns to the policy makers, and looking for it to make sense to all of us. You expressed our point of view very well, Mr. Stern.

I would like to express my view that docks that are included in these new regulations are not a nuisance, infringement of the rights of others, or a priority in the scheme of things involving our lakes. We have not heard any of our neighbors on the lakes complain about dock size. The quality of water, excess speed and size of boats, milfoil problems are of much more importance to the quality of our lakes. Jan Bob De Vries

For a number of reasons, I am not in favor of the proposed restrictions on dock size. For example, many cabin owners do not have a flat or sunny area of their property to sit near the lake, so a dock provides a such an area. We spend 80 percent of our day on our dock, which needs to be big enough for a group of people to enjoy. Also, I've never heard anyone talk about larger docks being eyesores. And as long as one's neighbor doesn't have a problem with the positioning of your dock, I fail to see any problem caused by such docks. Legislators should instead spend our tax dollars addressing "real problems" like the waves of huge, super-noisy speedboats eroding the shoreline.

Okay, I just re-read this article and the comments. Please stress to anyone who will listen that getting older people with physical limitations and families with more than two small children in and out of a boat is a real challenge unless there is a sufficiently-sized dock platform. Who decided on the current size, and what did they base it on? I can't afford to replace my dock with one 8' wide (I can barely lift the 5' decking with help every spring and fall, it's a chore to put out and take in every year).You need to allow for a walker or a wheelchair, and/or usually two extra people to accomplish this, and more help if the older person is too proud to use either. And managing small children is a little more difficult than herding cats. Some are afraid. A small area makes them more so. Reducing the size of a platform from the first blanket permit is such a shame. I can't understand why you would deprive the very young and the very old of the opportunity for a first or a last memory. Weren't you ever young? Don't you hope people make allowances for you if you are ever disabled? Put yourself in their place. Make necessary changes to these regulations so that the DNR won't be at odds with everyone who purchased these docks. If the dock companies aren't at fault for selling them as an improvement, why should we be required to pay more to use them as such? My dock was designed specifically to accommodate these needs.

There is a 75 foot elevation along the south shore of Big Trout with little or no horizontal landing area at the bottom. Therefore, weather permitting, my family spends 95% percent of it’s time on our dock. If we are forced to decrease the size, it will play a roll in diminishing the overall enjoyment of the property and most likely impact property values as word gets around. The large docks along the south shore of Trout play a major roll in what makes the location attractive. In closing, the docks along the south shore of Trout add to the overall ambience of the shoreline. I love to boat by in the summer and observe the colorful flower pots. There are exceptions to every rule and to make a blanket statement without considering each individual property is wrong. There is a huge difference between a 1200 acre lake and a 300 acre lake. The DNR needs to think this one through. Thank you P.O.P.U.L.A.R

We own an expensive and beautiful home on Lower Whitefish and 5-6 years ago invested in a top shelf dock that included a platform that exceeds the dimensions now limited by the DNR. The reason for the platform is because we live on the sands banks with steep elevation, no room for beach area, and the need for at least 100ft of access dock to maintain a water level of at least 4-5 feet at the end of the dock for swimming and speed boat and fishing boat lifts. All homeowners have this problem on our end of the lake. Like many others, the platform becomes the major gathering point to enjoy the lake for our children and friends who come to join us for extended weekends. In addition we have handicapped friends who also enjoy the beauty of the lake country and the larger platform allows all of us the opportunity to be on the dock together and enjoy watching the children swim and the boats that pass by. Much more time is spent on the platform than out in the boats during the summer. Let’s not forget that we live in Minnesota and only have 4 months to really enjoy the water access to the lake(Memorial Day to Labor Day). Our family has had a Brainerd area lake home for over 30 years, and I can not remember ever getting the docks in much before Memorial Day and always out by mid –Sept. If the DNR wants to proceed along this line then at a minimum a property owner who has made the investment in a dock and a platform should be grandfathered in prior to the implementation of the new rules. Of course, that grandfather privilege would be premised on the property owner’s respect and protection of the lake and the shoreline. It should also provide for clear exceptions to general rule to meet special needs as have been expressed by myself and others. I have never come across a single lake front property owner who has not protected and taken care of the water quality and the shoreline. I urge the DNR to postpone the effective date of these rules and allow for a more detailed study and the consideration of grandfathering in those property owners that have made a substantial investment in a dock and a platform. Thanks for taking the time to read this note.

I am on Lake Ossie in Crow Wing, have been for 7 years and only recently became aware that some sort of restriction existed on dock size. My Dock is 4ft wide by 40ft long (due to depth) and has a 10'X 12' pad at the end. (280 total sq ft) I have a boat tied to each side all summer. The pad provides a safe, stable platform for my family (3 and 4 yr old daughters) and guests to access our boats. If I were held to the letter of the law, I would probably do 8'X 50'(400 sq ft, same depth as before) and perhaps two. I currently have 201 ft of shoreline of which 150 ft is virgin so there is plenty of room for improvement - but I'd rather not. I'd rather Minnesota's public servants not spend their/our time/money on this either. Fight invasive species instead of homeowners.

We are on the east shore of Rush Lake on the Whitefish Chain. According to our latest Survey we have 162 ft of shoreline. We have a 10 to 12 ft elevation from the lake. We have owned this property since the very early ninties and have chosen to keep our shorline in a natural state. In doing so, we have limited our "trimming and removal" of trees and vegetation along our bank and bluff areas. I am sure that if we had chosen to do so whether it was legal or illegal, we could have "landscaped"or "altered" our shoreline over the years. We have seen it done elswhere permitted or not. The consequence of this is that it has limited our lake views but has gained us privacy and we believe, enhanced the overall "natural" look of our shoreline. We give this background because we made the decision to have a dock platform many years ago. It would be redundant to repeat all the comments made by previous property owners so we would just like to add or empahsize a few points. We have two elderly grandparents that are reluctant participate in lake activities because it is difficult for them to access the dock due to the stairs and elevation. They were uncomfortable walking or sitting on an unstable 4 ft dock with a 10ft "L". With our dock platform, we can assist them down to the dock and they can literally enjoy hours of relaxation with family and grandkids as well as fishing right off the dock without climbing in and out of a boat. Yes, we have a small table with an umbrella on our platform, to shade from the sun. One grandparent has had skin cancer surgery. Our six grandkids spend most of their time at the lake on the dock, fishing, swimming and other family recreation. The dock platform allows safe separation when excited 3 to 10 year olds are learning to "cast". They enjoy catching all species and as many have stated earlier, our dock and platform are a haven for everthing from minnows to bullheads. Our platform allows us to limit our use of our boats and still enjoy our lake property. Every fishing tournament brings contestants in search of the largest Bass. We have tournament sized Bass hanging out under our platform. We have taught our kids and grandkids the virtues of "catch and release" from our platform. And yes, we do on occasion keep some Sunnies and Crappies for a fishfry. None go in to the freezer. Isn't that what life at the lake is all about?We have never had a "Party" on our platform. We do on occasion bring down a bottle of wine, watch the sunset or the "fireworks", and wave and socialize with neighbors passing by on their boats. We cannot do this from our land because of the elevation and aforementioned decision to favor trees and vegetation. Again, our boat can remain in its lift. We love the "Chain" and spend many hours boating on it. The truth is, it is getting more congested, and any way to limit this congestion by using our dock platform should add, not detract from the overall quality of life both on the lake and off. With all of the other more pressing demands on the DNR manpower and financial resources, we need to see scientific proof that our dock is detrimental to the quality of our lakes. If this can independently and fairly verified, we will voluntarily bring our dock platform in to whatever is deemed reasonable. We do not need another government regualtion. Our guess at this point, is that once again we find complaints from a very few who are "offended", dictating policy, without the science to validate it. Every controversial issue has its plus's and minus's. We hope this one can recieve a balanced reviewal. We, like most of those who have commented so far, have the most to lose if the Quality of our lakes is not maintained.

I have had a home on the Whitefish Chain for the last 17 years and I don't understand what all of the concern is about. I don't recall seeing many docks that are an intrusion to anyone boating on the lakes, in fact just ask any fisherman why he chooses to cast his line under docks and lifts. Apparently they recognize that to be a good fishing spot. Does that mean the platforms are "harming" the environment. If the platform is not hindering navigation, then I say let the lakeshore owner enjoy his property that he paid so dearly for!

My family has vacationed on Gull Lake since the 1940s and purchased property there in the 1950s. My enjoyment growing up there prompted my husband and me to purchase property and build in 2001when our new dock was put in. We have a platform of 10 x 20 so are out of compliance with the new rule. If we had sandy beach, it clearly wouldn't be necessary but we don't. Our young grandchildren love the lake but need to be supervised. A 200 square foot platform is hardly a "party platform" in my mind but is crucial to our enjoyment of the lake. One size does not fit all. Some rules may be necessary but they should be more clearly thought through from the vantage point of all concerned.

Our family is on Island Lake, part of the White Fish Chain. We too like most of the docks on the lake will not meet the “newly enforced” rules by the DNR. We added a larger platform at the end of our dock not because we have parties, but rather because of a need to enjoy the lake. Our lakeshore is extremely porous and we are not able to sit on the shore line. I would also enjoy reading an in-depth analysis on the advantages or disadvantages of a larger platform. Fishermen sure seem to know where the best fishing is located. Our family supports clean lakes, vegetation at supports fish, protection of our shoreline and safe boating. These are the areas I would ask the DNR to focus and spent our tax dollars on. Sitting on a dock with one’s family should not be in the domain of the government!

Just a few thoughts...Perhaps Senator Olsen is too quick to jump at the mention of "party platform." Is there a statesman who supports lake property owners? We applaud P.O.P.U.L.A.R. for representing us so ably... The editorial is ambiguous in claims of "many opponents." P.O.P.U.L.A.R. is very up front as to the number of people they speak for. There's always going to be somebody to object no matter what, but just because they find fault doesn't invalidate what we hope to correct. The proposed regulations are clearly unfair in several respects. I hope P.O.P.U.L.A.R. submits a rebuttal to that misleading editorial. I don't care if our viewpoint is not universally accepted; we purchased this modest addition to our dock in good faith and a long time ago. Grandfathering applies to other regulations, why not this widespread situation? Why penalize so many and keep narrowing the restrictions? A platform is structurally safer in circumstances involving children and the elderly, and allowances should be made on their behalf. Those who object probably aren't happy with anything on shore, so their viewpoints are understandable but unrealistic. Thanks for the opportunity to voice an opinion, and good luck with the next meeting. Looking forward to revisions that take us into consideration, and don't let the lack of universal acceptance influence the outcome. Senator Olsen and her cohorts really are "narrow-minded!"I prefer to remain anonymous, but I do live on the lake, and have a platform only slightly bigger than what the current permit will cover. I don't write a lot of letters, but in this case I'll do my best. If more people take the time that you have, we'll be okay when all is said and done.

I've been visiting the Whitefish Chain since 1970. We've owned a place with my parents on Trout Lake since 1992. My parents are still there and we purchased our own lake home on Trout Lake in the last couple years. We both have docking systems over the 120 sq ft regulations. We were never made aware of the 8 ft limit when purchasing the docks. We have always taken steps to protect our water and animal life and are concerned about our lake. We paid a few thousand dollars to put riprap in to protect the shoreline from eroding. Where is the scientific proof? A few people are making this big stink because of what? non-scientific assumptions? Why not use the DNR efforts for policing the landings, to prevent boats with invasive species attached to them from entering our waters. There are so many other good works to be concerned with, DOCKS??? We have fishermen fishing under both docks on a regular basis. We see the fish swimming under our docks every day. Do boats want to zig zag in and out of the docks? I don't think so, and if they did it wouldn't be real safe for the swimmers. There are VERY few docks that we see that are UNREASONABLE in size. The reason for people having lake homes has changed over the decades. Fishing used to be the big draw. In the last two decades many of the lakes, especially the larger lakes have become more recreational in nature. People have come up to these lake areas paid a pretty penny for their property, put nice lake homes on them, supported the local businesses and NOW are presented with unrealistic restrictions for their lake front. Presented with these restrictions after the fact, after they have invested a lot of money in the area, their homes, AND their docks. Most people have lake homes so they can use the lake. The dock is our favorite place to spend time with friends and family, to watch boats, to fish, and watch loons meander by, to see the sun rise and set. We don't call our dock a "party platform". It's MULTI purpose platform with a lot of very family friendly activities being enjoyed on it any chance we get!! I think the people living on the lakes, paying the taxes, caring about their water should have a voice! The platforms are not hurting anything!! Does the DNR want to buy back all of our permanent dock sections that we would be unable to use????

We are on Big Trout Lake. Our platform has been larger than 120 sq ft. for over 12 years. Our place on the lake is the families gathering spot and we spend 90% of our lake time on the dock platform. We often have 15-20 family members including very young grandchildren and children with disabilities on that platform. We remain there virtually all day, bothering no one. Without this safe island for our family we will be forced to put our most fragile and vulnerable family members at risk and join the thousands of boaters that already congest our waterways. We will be forced to buy insanely expensive fuel to motor around the lakes, which will in turn contribute to air, water and noise pollution. We will now be forced to compete with enormous boats, some going in excess of 100mph. and piloted by drinking drivers. I don't understand why the DNR would want to eliminate these safe haven docks for families and put these families at risk in boats. Our family has been able to enjoy the lake in this "0-impact", way for many years. There is no good reason to change it now. Furthermore, in the years we've been on this lake, we have seen the water clarity and fish populations increase. Put on a snorkel and mask and look under our dock. You will find that several fish species thrive here. Fish spawn all around our dock and stay there for protection and shade. Fisherman love these larger docks because they provide, shade, shelter and a perfect habitat for fish to enjoy. Its no coincidence that during fishing tournaments we have many fisherman casting under and around these larger docks. These larger docks are providing critical habitat and an ecosystem that promotes fish populations. We believe these new regulations are at the very least untested and short sighted, and in reality are detrimental to lakes and fish and dangerous for families like ours. To reduce air, water, and noise pollution on our lakes and promote a healthy and vibrant fish environment, we believe the DNR should embrace the larger docks and concentrate their limited resources on pesticide/herbicide elimination from our lakes and shores. We, the lakeshore owners, are excellent stewards of our lakes because we study and observe it every day. We are probably more in tune with the health of our lakes than a DNR official, who with limited resources, can only take a snapshot once in a while. Please don't destroy these vital ecosystems. At least grandfather the larger docks in so there can actually be some study done to prove their worth.

We are on Daggett Lake on the Whitefish Chain. When we installed our new docks and platform in 2001 we were in compliance. When Boathouses were "outlawed" by the DNR, the existing ones were "grandfathered" and did not have to be torn down (or reduced in size). Why shouldn't docks and platforms be the same? Why should we have to throw out good dock sections that we paid a lot of money for when we were in compliance when they were first installed? Also, limiting the depth at the end of the dock to 4' with the changes in water depth that have been evident in past years, will cause many property owners not to be able to enjoy their boats when the water level is lower. Even last summer many boat owners could not get their boats away from the dock. And, at what point in the summer will the water depth be measured when it varies so much. We have a 26' foot boat and we need to be in water deep enough to bring the boat in so that the end of the boat is up to the end of the dock so that the elderly in our family can enter and exit the boat safely on the back of the boat. Depth allowed should be at least 6' at the end of the dock. Reconfiguration will cost additional expense to add connections. We think that the vast majority of property owners on the lakes are respectful of the lakeshore and do a good job of properly maintaining it for the good of the environment.

We are on Rocky Point Gull Lake. Our platform is greater than 120 sq ft. We require a platform our size to safely dock boats, swim from while we have guest boats tied up, and for general sun, as our shore is shaded with natural majestic pines that we intend to leave. As new owners we reshaped the dock arrangement and reduced the non-platform area by 160 sq ft. We have been allowing our shoreline to 'go back to nature' to reduce pesticides from the lake and make room for the little creatures. This is magnitudes more important than "dock control". We deeply care about the lake. We would not want to jeopardize the value or quality of the lake for any reason. We don't know how this dock rule improves our lake; we see it as a ridiculous infringement on our rights. We are not even mentioning the burdensome cost to comply, nor the enormous ever increasing property taxes continuously paid. The DNR should get on to something important like pesticides.

We have a cabin on Roosevelt Lake and have a dock platform in excess of 120 square feet. We own nearly 300 feet of lakeshore and less than 50 feet has seasonal structures on it. None of these structures creates a navigation hazard or impacts the fish population. Based on the number of boats that fish near our docks, I'd have to say we probably are helping the fish population with our docks. Our family and friends use these structures to safely enjoy the lake. Whether its docking a boat to load passengers or helping kids learn how to water ski, wakeboard or get on a inner-tube having the dock platforms at their current size helps make the activity safer and easier. Enjoyment of the lake is privilege we pay a hefty fee for every year. Additionally, why isn't there a formula that addresses square footage to lake footage? One would think that there must be some correlation between the two. But that would assume someone has applied basic scientific principles to identify the problem and develop/test theory's on how resolve to the problem. It's amazing that with all the real quantifiable issues the DNR currently faces they have decided to make this their "flavor of the month". The DNR's Division of Waters states their mission/purpose as "Helping people ensure the future of our water resources". I have not seen any scientific data, studies or evidence that 1) the current docks on waterways in the state of Minnesota are causing "X" (fill in the metric) amount deterioration to water quality, wildlife habitat, etc. and 2) when the new changes are implemented we will see "Y" (again, fill in the metric) resulting improvement in water quality, wildlife habitat, etc. It appears to be a few individual opinions, not based on facts, measurable goals or measurable outcomes. The DNR has real issues, measurable ones that it should be addressing. Problems like shoreline erosion, impact of drought, invasive species of fish and plant life, boating safety, etc... Yet they are spending (I would argue wasting) time, energy and money on something that has no metric, no targeted outcome, and frankly no support from the majority of people that own and use the waterways. Furthermore, how can they even think about passing "laws" they can't begin to enforce. And why would they consider enforcing these laws when they are not enforcing many of the existing laws that were created and if enforced could have real impact on "ensuring the future of our water resources". Who's going to pay for this. Who's going to buy back the $10,000+ in docks that we own that will no longer be useable. What about the impact to businesses that manufacture docks in the state. What about the impact to those who sell and install them. And finally, are my homeowner taxes going to go down because limits the DNR is imposing on my prior user rights? Wake up Minnesota DNR. Focus on your mission and do what needs to be done to improve the waterways, not proceed with another un-substantiated, un-supported, un-enforceable law.


Anonymous said...

Bravo!! Great Job Sam


Anonymous said...

May I point out that the legislature passed on a decade-old opportunity to promote undeveloped shoreline? There was a Blue Waters Initiative proposed to ease the tax burden on undeveloped lakeshore. It was tabled for years. Now that most of the lake property has been sold, the dizzying speed that the MN Senate would take to force a dock/shore use compliance is surprising. Add to the mix that those who propose that dock areas harm lakes have only theories. Isn't it curious that Senator Mary Olson and Dan Siems are so focused on blaming dock structures for what they perceive to be a problem? How unfortunate that they manipulate data and try to manipulate people, and are not at all objective.

The DNR has only been sampling the shoreline species very recently on the lake where I live, whether the abundant results they've found could as easily be because of the docks rather than in spite of them. Nevertheless, the docks are there, have been for years, and results are positive to date.

Thanks to the DNR and to P.O.P.U.L.A.R. for constructive meetings. Sorting it out beforehand is far more sensible than hurrying to adopt another position that would have to be rescinded. The legislature shouldn't be as concerned about whom to blame, especially since the Senate and the House might've made a difference when they had the chance. It doesn't appear that they've made too many decisions that benefit the lake property owners. Why do they want Dock Police so soon, before there is reason to do so?
Give it time!