Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dock Hearing Scheduled in MN Senate

I've been waiting until we had something substantive to report. The time has come. As you know, Senator Mary Olson introduced legislation that would require the DNR to complete new rulemaking on the issue of structures in public waters by March 15, 2009. The 2008 General Permit would expire at that time.

As we have discussed, we believe that opponents of dock platforms will use rule-making as an opportunity to further restrict lakeshore owners' use and enjoyment of their property. The "aquatic impact area" included in the 2008 General Permit as a suggestion could very well become mandatory. Moreover, the intent of Senator Olson and her supporters is to return to the 2002 DNR regulations limiting docks to 8 feet in width. There would be no platforms allowed.

If the legislation passes, we will need to actively participate in the rule-making process in order to protect P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members' interests more successfully than in the past.

While I am still working with Assistant DNR Commissioner Larry Kramka to address the dock platform issue in light of the 2008 General Permit, our focus will undoubtedly change to stay on top of new efforts to restrict lakeshore property use.

To start with, I have sent requests to the chairpersons of the Environment and Natural Resources Committees in both the Minnesota Senate and House, asking that I be allowed to testify on behalf of P.O.P.U.L.A.R.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources has scheduled a hearing on Senator Mary Olson's bill, S.F. 3237, for March 12th at 12:30 in Room 107 of the State Capitol. As noted above, the legislation requires the DNR to complete rulemaking on structures in public waters by March 15, 2009. The 2008 general permit would expire at that time.

Keep in mind that structures in public waters includes any dock, not just platforms, boat lifts, canopies, etc. It could very well impose restrictions on the size and number of docks a lakeshore property owner is allowed, effectively determining the number of water craft allowed. It could also restrict the use of boatlifts, canopies and other accessories.

I have sent the following e-mail to Sen. Chaudary, the chair of the Environment and Natural Resources committee:

"Dear Senator Chaudhary:

I understand that you will be holding hearings on Senator Mary Olson's bill SF3237. I represent an association of lakeshore property owners, Property Owners Protecting Useful Lake Access Rights (P.O.P.U.L.A.R.). Currently, there are several hundred recipients of P.O.P.U.L.A.R.'s direct communications. In the last month, 898 unique viewers have visited P.O.P.U.L.A.R.'s blog 1,975 times, indicating a high level of interest. You may visit the blog at protectlakes.blogspot.com.

While P.O.P.U.L.A.R. welcomes legitimate research into the impact of structures on public waters, as contemplated by SF 3237, we are concerned that the process not be used for increased restrictions on property owners' use of their property, as contemplated by the "aquatic impact area" included in the DNR's 2008 General Permit. We are aware that some opponents of dock platforms desire further restrictions on property owners' use and enjoyment of their property, ultimately impacting Minnesota's marine industry, tourism and employment in resort communities.

P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members believe that they should not be deprived of reasonable use and enjoyment of their lakeshore access. They recognize that they live on public waters but believe that, with their vested interests, they are the most effective stewards of public waters.

Contrary to descriptions in the media, P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members represent a broad range of socio-economic interests. Many, if not most, have owned their properties for several generations. Many of those who have constructed dock platforms did so to address concerns regarding safety and shoreline geography. References to "party docks" in the media and by opponents of platforms are misguided. Moreover, most of the platforms were constructed prior to the DNR's regulations that went into effect in 2003 and owners resent characterizations of illegality.

I would like the opportunity to testify at any hearings on SF3237. Please contact me to let me know if this will be possible. Thank you for your consideration."

As I requested in my letter to P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members, please send e-mails to members of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. You can get their addresses here. Tell them that any new rules have to consider the unique aspects of each lake, the safety needs of property owners, the historic use of the property and investment in dock structures prior to any regulation, and any other concerns you have.

Please pass on information received from P.O.P.U.L.A.R. to anyone you know who might be concerned about the extent of DNR rule-making. Even lakeshore property owners who do not install platforms ought to be concerned about being told how much of their shoreline is off limits because of perceived environmental damage.

Let's be heard. As always, keep it civil and keep it accurate.


Anonymous said...

I will suport Sen. Mary Olson's Bill.With large docks will have an impact on the ccontrol of invasive species. It also would take away the good weeds for fish habbitat and food.It would also be a danger to boaters;

Anonymous said...

Let's leave the docks and lifts alone and concentrate on milfoil as well as other invasive plants and fish that are getting into out lakes at all the popular boat ramps. Also, water runoff into the lakes from the pristine lawn fertilizer.

Anonymous said...

Why would any cabin/home owner need more than 50ft length,5ft wide?