Legislative Agenda

The MN COLA Board established a set of priorities for 2024 that address a number of serious issues that affect the waters of Minnesota. They are presented here as two groups: one group includes issues that are statewide, and the other group includes issues that are regional in nature.

A short-form version of our Legislative Agenda can be found here.

High Priorities of Statewide Significance

1) Watercraft operation effect on lakes

Adopt best practices for watercraft users, uses and wake actions into Watercraft Operators education based on latest and best research to prevent safety issues, shoreline erosion, and sub-surface ecological damage, AND, establish the need for regulation with enforcement.

We seek to regulate watercraft uses and wake actions to minimize the negative effects on waterbodies. We seek an increase in state funding for counties to better address their respective water patrol services and enforcement of these regulations.

Based on Phase 1 research by SAFL (the University of Minnesota’s Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory) a minimum distance of 600 feet from shore will reduce the impact on shorelines to a level similar to non-wakecraft. Similarly, a minimum depth is being developed as part of Phase 2. These two factors taken together form the basis of a recommendation of where wakecraft can be operated such that they produce the same degree of impact on the lake environment as a non-wakecraft would produce.

2) Developments in Wetlands

Support environmental review requirements for water quality concerns from developments and construction on marginal lands, wetlands, and non-riparian lands. Approvals must include serious environmental reviews. Environmental Impact Statements and Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EIS/EAW) requirements must be addressed and met.

3) Continue Support for MAISRC

  • a) MN COLA supports the LCCMR funds requests
  • b) Program to report on research to use a risk-based approach to resource allocations
  • c) MN COLA seeks a stable, long-term funding for MAISRC, which is needed to keep and attract quality research talent. Research often includes studies that extend beyond two-year Legislative actions. Without longer-term commitments long-term research, such as many of the investigations undertaken by MAISRC, cannot continue.  
  • d) MN COLA seeks to increase the three-year watercraft license surcharge to increase AIS funding on an annual basis. The current allocation of $10.60 should be increased to $25.00 with allotments of $10 to MAISRC research, $10 to lake associations for AIS control, and an additional $5 to the DNR to continue their work. In the future MN COLA supports AIS funding appropriations in the 2024-2026 General Fund for $1M or more per year.

4) MN COLA seeks an increase in boater AIS compliance through fines for AIS violations that are at parity with Minnesota game and fish fines including the authority to impound where necessary.

Currently, there is a larger fine for taking a deer out of season than for bringing AIS to a lake. And yet the recreational value and the economic fallout to a lake are much, much greater. Lake residents are at risk of having to pay to manage an AIS that was brought in by a single boater. It can be a downward pressure of realized value for property owners desiring to sell, and it can change county property taxes or levies for everyone in the county.

5) MN COLA seeks to modify the outdated AIS Prevention Aid funding models developed in 2014. We seek increases in aid amount and a change in the allocation basis. We seek a future funding level increase from $10M to $20M per year.

The need for more AIS control grants is exacerbated by the continued growth of AIS in lakes that have become infected with an AIS and need annual control treatments. Cost of AIS control are rising while the allocations remain constant.

High Priorities of Regional Significance

6) MN COLA supports the DNR proposal for a bonding bill to improve the public accesses with a goal of making them easier to address boat inspections and AIS removal.

The public accesses need periodic repair and the DNR proposes to fund many in the proposed bill. MN COLA seeks to have implemented access design that makes inspections and AIS removal as easy and as fast as possible.

7) MN COLA seeks to protect Minnesota’s sensitive watersheds by rerouting future new and replacement crude oil pipelines away from high-risk routes.

The world still needs oil but sensible designs that minimize the risk of pollution are possible.

8) MN COLA seeks to keep Minnesota’s waters free from the pollution created by mining of all kinds, in particular that caused by “hard-rock” (sulfide) mining.

There are several mining proposals current in Minnesota targeting metals such as nickel, copper, cobalt, manganese, lithium, and others, including the agri-peat mines. These new mines would be located near the Boundary Waters as well as wetlands in Aitkin, Crow Wing and Itasca Counties. Proposals for mining helium in Iron Range area will also need scrutiny. At risk are all of Minnesota’s major watersheds: to the north via the Boundary Waters (Twin Metals), east down the St Louis River to Lake Superior (Poly-Met, Minntac)), and south via the Mississippi (Talon and North Star Manganese).

New Environmental Impact Statements are needed for all the new proposals, leading to either much stronger permits, or denial altogether. The mining permits established years ago for iron ore (taconite) are not appropriate for these new high-sulfide ores. Some progress in reining in these developments has been made, but much remains at risk. Foreign-based companies with extremely poor records can create shell companies to cover any losses and escape environmental responsibility via planned bankruptcy.
Taconite mining also exposes a measure of sulfide, and after 50 years of open-pit mining current water samples well exceed Federal limits. Unfortunately, our Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has long ignored this contamination already in the St Louis River, and continues to approve expansions into sensitive wetlands, without proper permits.

Many deleterious ecological effects result from all such mining, including damage to fish, wild rice, many other native plants and habitat, as well as public drinking water. While these metals are needed for our transition to an electric-based energy system, we cannot afford to sacrifice so much clean, fresh water needed by all, in this bum’s rush to accommodate mining without meticulous, detailed, and enforced controls.

More details can be found here: