Monday, January 12, 2009

DNR Rulemaking Update: The Ship has left the Dock (Platform)

The Department of Natural Resources' rulemaking process to revisit the issue of "private structures" on public waters is in full swing. As indicated in the e-mail that went out to P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members in November, the DNR solicited comments before the drafting of new rules began. In addition, the DNR is soliciting input via the Internet by asking watercraft owners to complete a survey (see link below) and has started a formal rule-making process designed to meet the January, 2010 deadline imposed by last year's legislature.

P.O.P.U.L.A.R. is at the forefront of representing the rights of lakeshore property owners. It has been recognized by the DNR as a voice of lakeshore property owners as the process proceeds. In fact, as a result of the work P.O.P.U.L.A.R. has done thus far to express the viewpoints of lakeshore property owners, we have been given a seat on the Structures in Public Waters - Rule Revision Advisory Group constituted to provide input to the DNR as part of the process. I attended the first meeting of the Advisory Group on behalf of P.O.P.U.L.A.R. last week. The meeting was primarily to organize the Advisory Group, review the issues, distribute the preliminary draft rules DNR had prepared, identify the issues of concern to Advisory Group participants and set a schedule for three additional monthly meetings.

Our aggressive representation of lakeshore property owner rights will be needed if the final regulations are to incorporate our concerns. In addition to P.O.P.U.L.A.R., one representative (each) of the dock industry, the real estate industry, the marina industry and the resort industry serve on the Advisory Group. Unfortunately, 15 of the remaining 19 Advisory Group members are DNR staff or representatives of environmental groups. Since the purpose of the rulemaking process is to establish a record upon which an administrative law judge can rely in approving new regulations, it is critical that we build a record that evidences the rights of lakeshore property owners and the need to avoid over-regulation. Should those rights and needs be ignored in the process, P.O.P.U.L.A.R. will have the basis for litigating to prevent the implementation of offending rules. Without a record, P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members will be at the mercy of the dictates of the DNR.

As noted above, comment gathering is part of building a record for later consideration. Accordingly, we cannot allow emotionally based, uninformed, baseless opinions to be relied upon in establishing a record for review. Part of the comment gathering is coming from the distribution of a survey to licensed watercraft owners in Minnesota. This survey is in addition to opinions garnered at the Minnesota State Fair in 2008 and is intended to obtain the opinions of persons most likely to use the State's lakes and rivers: boat owners. Initially, the survey was to be distributed to 25,000 randomly chosen watercraft licensees. The randomly selected licensees received a postcard from the DNR asking them to go online and answer a 27 question survey. Subsequently, the DNR decided to give all watercraft licensees the ability to participate in the survey by going online at, entering a license number, and answering the questions. The license number is required only to try to limit responses to persons with a vested interest in the process. The DNR is not keeping track of which answers come from which licensees, so there is no reason not to participate or be honest with your answers to the questions.

P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members are urged to go online to the DNR survey and file a response on or before January 19th, the deadline for responding. We need to make sure that the results are not completely skewed in favor of the weekend boater who visits a local lake, enjoys the public waters, but has no real interest in the rights of, or understanding of the needs of, lakeshore property owners.

P.O.P.U.L.A.R. members are also urged not to get frustrated with the tone of the survey, which appears to be skewed against property owners' rights. Rather,
P.O.P.U.L.A.R. owners should click here and take a modified survey prepared to more fairly reflect some of the issues presented by more restrictive rulemaking by the DNR. The results of this survey will be presented to the Advisory Group and made part of the official record of the rulemaking proceedings. It is not limited to watercraft licensees. It is limited to one response per computer.

It is now time, absolutely, to make your fellow lakeshore property owners aware of efforts to severely restrict their use and enjoyment of their property. Never mind dock platforms: docks themselves, boat slips, boat lifts, sand blankets, canopies, personal watercrafts and even the number of allowed boats are being targeted by the proposed regulations.

Now that the process has started in earnest, I'll be posting blogs more regularly so check back often. Later this week, I'll start reviewing the elements of the draft rules as presented at the initial Advisory Group meeting.

Finally, please consider making a donation to support our efforts. You can either click on the "donate" button at the top of this posting or send a check to P.O.P.U.L.A.R. at 247 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415. The money will be spent to assure that lakeshore property owners have a voice at the table and, compared to the tens of thousands of dollars invested in so-called "private structures" and watercraft, is a worthwhile investment to maintain your historical lake lifestyle.

Thanks for your support.

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