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Commentary: Lake associations work on AIS issues

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Hubbard County Coalition of Lakes Association is committed to work that keeps our lake healthy and maintains lakeshore property values.

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In recent months we have learned that owners of Hubbard County water influenced properties account for about 60 percent of the total property value in Hubbard County and pay about 53 percent of the $29 million dollar county property tax.

Most of us are also aware of studies that say lakeshore and river property values decline when there is a reduction in water quality. Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) are impacting the water quality on many of Minnesota's lakes. Many of us are aware of the problems that aquatic invasives cause, not only in reduced property value but also in the expense to control the invasive (if possible!) and the reduced ability for all to enjoy the lakes and rivers.

A recent Wisconsin study relates the impact of Eurasian Milfoil infestation to declining property value. This study, from 2008, indicates a typical land value decrease of 13 percent.

While Eurasian water milfoil has clogged up more than 250 Minnesota lakes, Zebra Mussels (ZM) are the latest aquatic invasive threat.

Zebra mussel's impact our lakes in a bigger way than any aquatic invasive indentified to date and they are spreading at an exponential rate. In 2010, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recognized 20 ZM infested water bodies. A year later, we now have at least 60 infested waterbodies. While most of our 10,000 lakes remain pristine, all are threatened.

So how will AIS and the latest ZM invasion impact the lakes of Hubbard County when they move into our area? We will not only loose much of the lake experience that we are here to enjoy, but will also face declining property values and a community that must pay higher property taxes to make up for the declining lake property values. This last point is seldom discussed but important to understand.

Our Hubbard County net tax revenue of about $29 million comes from the tax revenue of water and non-water influenced properties. A reduction in water influenced property values and the corresponding drop in property tax will cause an increase in taxes for the non-water property owners.

The current policy in Minnesota is that the lakes are for everyone to enjoy and no lake can restrict access. Popular lakes such as Mille Lacs, with more than 100,000 boats moving in and out of the lake annually, create the pathway to transfer ZM and other aquatic invasives to many healthy uninfested lakes. The current DNR led awareness and "Prevent the Spread" campaign is simply not aggressive enough to prevent the continuing spread of AIS and resulting loss of lake and river water quality.

Our lake associations along with organizations like Minnesota Waters and Hubbard County COLA are becoming strong advocates for a much stronger, more aggressive AIS prevention program that includes 100 percent watercraft inspection, reducing the number of boat launch sites and a quarantine of infested lakes.

While many of these ideas will not be popular, we need to face this problem head on if we are to preserve the wonderful lakes and waters that Minnesota is known for. Everyone needs to learn about the AIS and Zebra Mussel threat to our lakes and the resulting impact to our community so that we can all support efforts to manage this problem.

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