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Pawlenty rejects updated shore rules

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has rejected an effort to update Minnesota's rules for lakeshore development, telling regulators to try again.

The updated lakeshore construction and dock rules were aimed at protecting Minnesota's lakes from what some see as overdevelopment. But the governor says the revisions overreach and undermine local control and property rights, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Friday.

Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Holsten said many citizens and stakeholders have expressed concerns similar to the governor's and his agency will go back to work.

"The rules you forwarded to me regarding these issues do not strike a proper balance between protection of our lakes and waterways and the equally important right of our citizens to enjoy them and their property," Pawlenty said in a letter to Holsten.

The governor's decision means the state's decades-old standards, which are commonly considered out of date, will remain in place a good while longer. Had Pawlenty accepted the draft changes, public hearings would have begun soon, and new standards could have been in place next year.

"The governor is just washing his hands of the issue and saying it's not important to him to keep our lakes clean and to protect habitat for fish," said Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, chairwoman of the Senate Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Budget Division.

Under the proposed updates, size limits would have been placed on many types of large docks with tightened or revised requirements for many new buildings, developments and sewage systems.

"The old rules reflect a time when lakes had a few small cabins on them. They don't reflect (today's) large homes with bigger footprints and the continuing degradation of water in Minnesota lakes," said Scott Strand, executive director of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

The Legislature ordered the updates years ago, and a task force recommended voluntary guidelines four years ago. Since then, the DNR and a wide array of interests have worked on them. But Pawlenty, who received the proposed changes months ago, hit the brakes.

"In their current form, these rules would be vetoed by me if advanced to the next stage of the rule-making process," Pawlenty wrote.

The governor acknowledged that some problems exist, such as people who've installed docks or platforms that are unreasonably large.

"However, the vast majority of lakeshore property owners have been responsible and reasonable with their docks or platforms," he said.

One of the proposals would have limited the size of a private platform to 120 square feet, or 170 square feet if a portion of the access dock is included. Another proposal would prohibit new development within 50 feet of the shoreline.

Even without the proposed rules, Pawlenty said, local governments can still go ahead and adopt similar ones.