MN COLA builds consensus for passage of Watercraft Operator License bill

The Minnesota Legislature in the 2023 session expanded Minnesota’s existing Boater Education requirements to all boat operators aged 12 and up, born on or after July 1, 1987.  MN COLA was a leader in building consensus across a diverse group of stakeholders to help make the law reality.

Click here for more information about this great step forward for safer boating on Minnesota waters.


The Minnesota Legislature in the 2023 session expanded Minnesota’s existing Boater Education Program to all boat operators aged 12 and up, born on or after July 1, 1987. Minnesota’s previous boater education requirement was for youth (ages 12-17).

A watercraft operator’s license has been a cornerstone of MN COLA’s Legislative Agenda for years. MN COLA’s consensus building throughout the water community over numerous legislative sessions helped make this law reality.


The MN DNR will be establishing a working group to create and implement the program. The program will cover core safety education in the areas of waterway rules, user conflict reduction, and towing responsibility. It will also provide important lake ecology education on preventing the spread of AIS and understanding how excessive wake height and powerful propeller thrust can negatively impact shoreline erosion, lake bottom habitat, and water quality—all of which are pressing issues for most lakeshore owners. The required boater operator education will help calibrate all Minnesota boaters’ knowledge with

current information and research, and increase the likelihood that users operate their watercraft in an informed, responsible, and respectful manner.

The requirement is phased in and effective:

  • July 1, 2025, if born on or after July 1, 2004;
  • July 1, 2026, if born on or after July 1, 2000;
  • July 1, 2027, if born on or after July 1, 1996;
  • July 1, 2028, if born on or after July 1, 1987.

Other details of the requirement include:

  • Boats with a 25hp or less do not require Boater Education and Certification to operate;
  • Youth Boaters (ages 12-17) limited to 75 hp motors;
  • Watercraft owner is responsible for operation of watercraft;
  • Rental business requirements which include administering a “short boater safety exam” to operators without a MN certification;
  • Program can be administered electronically or on paper.

Vermont proposes rules for use of wake boats

Vermont may soon have the toughest rules in the US for managing wake boats and their activities. Vermont’s rulemaking process is different than Minnesota’s as petitions by the public must be considered. These proposed rule changes were developed by the state in response to a petition submitted in March 2022 from an organization called Responsible Wakes for Vermont Lakes. The Phase 1 wake research done by the St. Anthony Falls Lab at the U of MN was part of the basis for the petition and the state’s proposed rule.

The proposed rule defines a ‘wakesports zone’ as having a minimum of 50 contiguous acres that are at least 500 feet from shore and at least 20 feet deep. The proposed rule also includes a “home lake” approach to help reduce the potential for wake boats to spread AIS from residual water in their ballast tanks.

The petitioners are pleased with the proposed rule but note that the distance from shore is not sufficient as per the U of MN’s peer-reviewed research to reduce the ecological and safety impacts.

MN COLA is proud to have provide input and support for the petition.

AIS continues to spread in Minnesota

tiny-zebra-mussels-on-the-back-of a-hand
Zebra mussels can clog water supply inputs creating problems for homeowners and municipalities

It’s still early in season for AIS detection, but zebra mussels continue their march through Minnesota. As of June 29, 11 new zebra mussel infested water bodies were added to the MN DNR’s Infested Waters List: 6 in Wright County, 2 in Otter Tail County, and 1 each in Hubbard, Kandiyohi, and Stearns Counties.

In addition to these new zebra mussel infestations, Eurasian watermilfoil was confirmed in 1 lake in Le Sueur County and starry stonewort was confirmed in 1 lake in Kandiyohi County.

Can cultivated chicken help keep our water clean?


“Cultivated meat requires a fraction of the land and a fraction of the water” so it could potentially help us reduce the impact of our farming practices on our public waters in Minnesota.

This video is from CBS Sunday Morning and was broadcast on July 10, 2023. NPR correspondent Allison Aubrey talks with Dr. Uma Valeti about his company, Upside Foods, which is planning to produce thousands of pounds of cultivated meat from a thimbleful of cells, without having to raise or slaughter animals. Their first commercial product is chicken and the company just received clearance from the USDA to start selling their meat made at their Emeryville, California production facilities.

Mercury rising in zebra mussel infested lakes

Clearer water from zebra mussels? Yes. Healthier water? NO! But do zebra mussels impact the fish we eat? YES!!!

In their 2022 Annual Report, the University of MN AIS Research Lab (MAISRC) reported some startling findings about “how zebra mussels influence food webs supporting walleye and yellow perch, and how food web changes influence mercury concentrations in fish tissue.”

“Mercury in fish tissue was, on average, 66% higher for adult walleye and 91% higher for adult yellow perch in lakes containing zebra mussels compared to those in uninvaded lakes.

On average, mercury concentrations in 16-inch walleye from lakes containing zebra mussels were 0.28 pm, above the 0.2 ppm threshold triggering human consumption advisories by the Minnesota Department of Health.”

This is really a significant finding, and the MN Health Department advisor should be heeded.

For more information, check out this MAISRC project online at

MN COLA supports MAISRC’s Lab to Lakes workshop at Leech Lake


The University of Minnesota AIS Research Center (MAISRC) held their first Lab to Lakes Regional workshop on June 23 and 24 in Cass County Minnesota. A wide variety of sponsors helped make this workshop a success (see graphic below.)

After a stirring perspective on the concerns for protecting the water from a leader of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwa, MAISRC Director Nick Phelps outlined the 2-day conference. Day 1 provided some highlights of MAISRC Lab projects of specific interest to the local geography, discussions of several local AIS success stories, and ending with a panel discussion on civic governance… a requirement for making projects happen in the complicated control for water. Day 2 was reserved for field trips to see project results in action.

It was great to see the lake associations working side-by-side with government organizations to protect the precious public waters of the area.

MN COLA was recognized several times in the discussions, and we were pleased to be a supporting sponsor. Jim Kutzner, Jim Gray, Blaine Barkley, and Joe Shneider attended on behalf of MN COLA.

Talon Metals nickel mining proposal submitted to the DNR


During the week of June 19, Talon Mining submitted a proposal for a nickel mine in Tamarack, MN to the MN DNR. Talon Mining has signed an agreement to supply half of their nickel output to Tesla Motors for use in electric vehicle batteries.

But the environmental concerns loom large as this is another sulfide-mining project. The previous proposals from Twin Metals and Polymet are not moving forward at this time after lawsuits and legislation.

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe has already gone on record regarding environmental concerns from this proposed mine and wants to ensure that the lands and waters that their people depend upon remain clean for generations.

The reviews will likely take years, and if history is a guide, court cases will follow.

For more information, check out the Star-Tribune articles on June 22 and June 25 written by Chloe Johnson.

Joining MN COLA brings big benefits!

We believe these benefits bring “real value” to MN COLA members and friends. And we can provide even more value when we grow of membership. We don’t say this because we are hungry for your money, although that’s always welcome. But we say this because MN COLA grows more relevant on important issues when we represent more people and more organizations.

So become a member!  Join MN COLA today!

MN COLA recognized in MAISRC Newsletter for their 2023 Legislative success

The University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) received additional funding from the 2023 Minnesota Legislative session and MN COLA was noted as a partner whose efforts helped to make this legislation happen.

Two-year funding for on-going support was received from Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, and special one-time funding was received to partner with local managers to implement several large-scale AIS projects throughout the state.

Read the June 2023 MAISRC Newsletter for more information on these appropriations and other happenings at MAISRC.