SAINT PAUL, MN – Lake Mille Lacs could play center stage at the legislature this session if Representative Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) gets her way. Erickson introduced three proposals the first day of session, all intended to increase transparency and continue the fight against aquatic invasive species in and around Lake Mille Lacs.
“These bills address issues that are critically important to District 15A and the state because of the resource and the economic contribution of the lake and its amenities,” Erickson said.
“Lake Mille Lacs is an important resource for our district, region, and the state as a whole, and a couple of these are measures that will help reveal how the lake is managed as part of the 1837 ceded territory.”
House File 33 would require the DNR Commissioner to report annually by July 1 to the Mille Lacs Fisheries Input Group costs associated with the management of Lake Mille Lacs and the ceded tribal territory based on the 1837 treaty. “I know that the cost of the fishery management is in the millions and is spread across various DNR divisions,” Erickson said, “so it is even more important that Minnesotans are aware of the exact costs year to year, as well as the services and funding being provided to the tribal community.”
House File 42 serves to ensure that state law is followed when the technical meetings occur between the DNR, several Ojibwe bands including the Mille Lacs Band and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission regarding 1837 treaty rights fisheries. Erickson’s proposal asks that up to five members of the Mille Lacs Fishery Input Group attend the meetings. “This proposed law simply reminds the DNR that Minnesota honors the open meeting law,” Erickson said.
Allowing members of the Fishery Input Group to attend, Erickson said, could help others understand several issues including the reason gill netting occurs during spawning. “The DNR has told me that the walleye fishery of Mille Lacs may be in critical condition so I want to make sure that sound biology is discussed both by biologists and by persons who fish the lake every day of the year,” Erickson said.
Additionally, the bill requires that the DNR Commissioner report annually to the Mille Lacs Fishery Input Group the extent to which state law and the DNR require containment of aquatic invasive species in Lake Mille Lacs and the ceded territories. “Part of my concern is that the gill nets used by the tribes could be contaminated, so lawmakers must find out how the lakes in the 1837 ceded territory are managed for AIS. Another is the containment of Asian carp.”
Erickson also introduced House File 12 on the first day. This capital investment proposal would appropriate funds to the city of Isle to replace the structurally deficient Malone Island Bridge. Regardless of whether the legislature decides to consider a Capital Investment bill in the first year of the biennium, Erickson said she wants attention paid to the Malone Island Bridge because it is the only bridge that crosses Lake Mille Lacs.
“If this wooden bridge were to collapse, it could affect a spawning ground nearby but also result in additional contamination from sewer pipes attached underneath the bridge.”
Erickson said that bonding is a long shot so she would also consider using Legacy funds and/or dollars from various funding streams of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “The time has come to replace the Malone Island Bridge, and I encourage the legislature to explore all possible options and funding sources.”
Erickson said she wants the legislature to take up these issues in the coming weeks after meeting with the chair of the natural resources policy committee last week. “I’m hopeful the legislature will recognize how important these pieces of legislation are to the region and work to address them this session.”