September Member Meeting Recap

The MN COLA Membership meeting on September 19th was exceptionally content rich with the best meeting attendance ever. We heard about the impact of climate change on Minnesota, a new Watercraft AIS Cleaning Stations and Tools project, a special award for MN COLA, and our focus for the 2024 legislative session.

Mark Seeley describes temp and moisture increases in MN

If you were not able to make the MN COLA September 2023 Meeting, here is a quick summary of the great information:

  • Dr. Mark Seeley, renowned climatologist/meteorologist from the University of Minnesota, gave us a eyes-wide-open presentation about climate change, with a focus on Minnesota. There is a high degree of climate variability, and in particular, Minnesota is experiencing higher temperature and rainfall erraticism. Mega rains are more frequent and higher dew points are preventing cooling. Lakes are warming—particularly shallow lakes, and there is less ice cover in the winter.
  • Cass County Association of Lakes and Cass County Soil and Water shared a fantastic Best Practice in Action—their Watercraft AIS Cleaning Stations and Tools. By leveraging DNR relationships, strong project management, and deep engagement from a large stable of volunteers, over 55 cleaning stations have been installed in Cass County.
  • Clap and cheer! MN COLA has been selected as a Partner of the Year by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center Research (MAISRC). We are delighted and honored to be recognized.
  • Legislative focus for 2024 – We had a robust conversation regarding the 2024 legislative focus; topics and strategy were fine-tuned, Clearly, the impacts of enhanced wakes are top of mind for MN COLA. Other subjects include AIS compliance, 2nd tier lake developments, AIS Prevention Funding, and sustaining funds for MAISRC.
  • The meeting concluded with our signature Round Robin session—a chance to chat and share what is on your mind. Hot topics included starry stonewort strategy, drainage issues, and regulations requiring an observer during towing.

A recording of Dr. Seeley’s portion of the meeting will be made available soon on the MN COLA website, under the Lake Resiliency section.

All are welcome to MN COLA Member meetings; the next meeting (Zoom) is Tuesday, December 5th—watch for more details!

MN COLA receives 2023 Partnership award from MAISRC

MAISRC Partnership Award  presented to MN COLA

Dr. Nick Phelps, Director of the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC), presented MN COLA with their 2023 Research Partnership Award for an organization.

Nick commented that “MN COLA has been an advocate for research-based solutions to our AIS problems from MAISRC’s beginning. From your docks to the State Capitol, you are out there; speaking the good word and trying to get important work done.” Nick also highlighted lake associations and COLA’s valuable help to MAISRC project teams, MN COLA’s help in disseminating research findings, and MN COLA’s advocacy for research and funding at the legislature.

Joe Shneider accepted the award on behalf of MN COLA and commented that “MAISRC is so vitally important for AIS prevention and control in Minnesota and far beyond. Their work is helping us better understand AIS infestations, what we can do now, and what might be possible in the future. We in Minnesota are so fortunate to have the kinds of access we have to the researchers and their ideas.”

MAISRC gives out Research Partnership Awards for individual partnership contributions and to local government partners in addition to the award to an organization.

AIS Infestations rising in 2023

Chart of AIS growth in MN 1995-2023-starry stonewort, zebra mussel, and EWM

Death by a thousand cuts! We can become immune to the repeated announcements of new lakes becoming infested with AIS, but we shouldn’t. The season for reporting AIS infestations is not over and we should expect the 2023 numbers will grow.

The 3 species graphed above threaten the recreational value of our public waters, and they keep growing, increasing the annual costs to keep the species under control and the lakes usable.

So far in 2023, we have 6 new infestations of starry stonewort: up from 22 since 2015. That’s a 27% increase this year alone. A troubling growth rate for a very troubling species that is still early in its infestation life cycle.

Zebra mussel infestations year to date are up 17 on a base of 582. If that low double-digit increase holds, it will have been a good year. Be aware that more infestations typically get identified as we pull out boats, docks, and lifts.

Eurasian watermilfoil only racked up 2 new infestations so far, so perhaps it’s trending down. And that’s good.

While waterbody counts may be slowing, you should be aware that most large lakes in Minnesota have 1 or more AIS, and the percentage of Minnesota’s surface water infested with AIS is very high.

Vanishing natural shorelines hurt lake quality

Image of the front cover of the report

In June 2022, Paul Radomski from the MN DNR presented the ideas from this newly released paper at our MN COLA Annual meeting. This was one of the sessions in our Lake Resiliency series.

Now the Vanishing Natural Shorelines paper has been published and you can read the whole story of how the loss of natural shorelines contributes to the degrading of lake quality. Tom Nelson, MN COLA Secretary and Itasca County SWCD Board member, was a key contributor from MN COLA. We encourage you to read and disseminate this document.

As Steve Kloiber from the MN DNR has written: “The Minnesota Natural Shoreline Partnership was formed around the idea that regulatory approaches to shoreland protection have not been sufficient to stop the loss of natural shoreland. This group has chosen to focus on the idea that there is a need to change social norms around how people think of their shoreline.”

We should individually and collectively do everything we can to stop the loss of natural shorelines and reclaim lost shorelines. Let’s change the social norm so natural shorelines are preferred.

Metro legislators rocked by surfing

MN COLA President Joe Shneider along with MLR Executive Director Jeff Forester and Marina owner Gabe Jabbour took several legislative leaders out on Lake Minnetonka in late August to see wakesurfing in action. From left to right are MN COLA President Joe Shneider, Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chair Rep. Rick Hansen, Rep. Larry Kraft, Sen. Kelly Morrison, MLRA’s Jeff Forester, and Marina owner Gabe Jabbour.

ACCL deploys new AIS cleaning tool stations with Cass County

The Association of Cass County Lakes (ACCL) developed a low-cost AIS cleaning station and is deploying it with help from Cass County. Nick Bluhm from ACCL and Steve Henry from Cass County presented their best-practices solution at the September MN COLA meeting.

A summary of the solution and the program to deploy is linked below.

Lakeland PBS recently broadcasted a new segment covering the project. Watch it here.

Email Nick Bluhm at for more information including how you can adapt the solution for your use.

Michigan Fisheries Division releases report on wake impacts

The Fisheries Division of the Michigan DNR released a literature review and recommendations regarding the effects of wake boats on aquatic habitat. An earlier version sparked controversy and it was relabeled as a draft. This July, the final report was released.

Recommendations in the report were couched as “voluntary best operating practices in support of the continued use of wake boats while minimizing the effects on natural resources. Their recommendations are copied below:

  1. Boats operating in wake-surfing mode or wake-boarding mode, during which boat speed, wave shapers, and/or ballast are used to increase wave height, are recommended to operate at least 500 feet from docks or the shoreline, regardless of water depth.
  2. Boats operating in wake-surfing or wake-boarding modes are recommended to operate in water at least 15 feet deep.
  3. Ballast tanks should be completely drained prior to transporting the watercraft over land.

Further, the Michigan report “recommended that awareness and voluntary adoption of these best operating practices be encouraged through outreach actions and materials to educate wake boat operators.”

Free to a good home: Specialized lake netting

Netting that was used for on Lake Koronis as part of a pilot project to control starry stonewort is available for free to a good home.

Each net is 300’ long, 6’ deep, and plastic coated. 4 nets are available: 2 nets have 3/8” holes, 2 nets have 3/16” holes. The nets have floats on the top and weights on the bottom. The nets were decontaminated and have been in storage since 2017. Other details are available.

Contact if your lake association can use any of these nets for any purpose.

Updates from MN COLA’s Annual Meeting

Our Annual Meeting in Little Falls last week was a great success with terrific speakers and insightful discussions! Over 30 people joined us for our first in-person meeting since late 2019.

As a follow-up to the meeting, we have attached two items for your use:

  • Draft minutes from the meeting (these will be approved at our September meeting)
  • An update on the 2023 Legislative Session from Jeff Forester of Minnesota Lakes and River’s Advocates

At the meeting we unanimously elected 7 new members to the MN COLA Board for 3-year terms, and we are excited to have a full complement of 15 Directors! Our Board Members and their term are listed here. Note that terms end in June of the noted year.

  • Blaine Barkley – 2024
  • Jan Believeau – 2024
  • Biz Clark – 2026
  • Kevin Farnum – 2024
  • Jeff Forester – 2026
  • Steve Frawley – 2026
  • Lynn Goodrich – 2025
  • Jim Gray – 2026
  • David Helgerson – 2024
  • Kathy Jonsrud – 2025
  • Jim Kutzner – 2025
  • Tom Nelson – 2025
  • Ruth Schaefer – 2025
  • Joe Shneider – 2024
  • Tom Watson – 2026

We noted we were doing a “last call” for the 2023 Communications Survey. If you haven’t yet taken the survey, it would be great if you could carve out a few minutes to do it.