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AIS Legislative summit to convene this weekend in Detroit Lakes

On Saturday, Jan. 15, the Tri-County Aquatic Invasive Species Legislative Summit will convene in Detroit Lakes.

The summit will begin at 9:30 a.m. with an informal reception for all attendees and legislators in the Conference Center at M-State.

The summit brings key agencies, legislators, businesses and environmental organizations together to focus on the need to ad-dress Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in the more than 2000 lakes in the three-county area. Given the amount of boat traffic in and out of these lakes, the potential for future contamination could be devastating if prevention is not more successful.

"Aquatic Invasive Species are the most serious threat facing the department out-side of the budget. We must change the hearts and minds of everyone. It will take all of us working on this issue together to be successful," Bob Meier, DNR Assistant Commissioner voiced at the DNR Statewide Roundtable last week.

Key organizers for this event are the City of Detroit Lakes, Pelican River Watershed District, Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations, and Lake Detroiters Association. In addition to their presentations, attendees will hear presenters from Becker County Board of Commissioners, Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce, RMB Laboratories and Tom Hanson, Zorbaz, all focusing on impacts to our region. Luke Skinner, DNR Aquatic Invasive Species Program Supervisor, will outline a new set of pro-grams to help prevent the further spread of AIS.

"Hubbard County cannot afford to sit idly by and watch invasives coming into our lakes. We have to act now, in partnership with Becker and Otter Tail counties, to harness all available state, regional and local resources in this fight before it's too late and our lakes are irreparably harmed," said Dan Kittilson, president of the Hubbard County COLA.

Hubbard County lakes have not been infested yet, Kittilson stressed, "Invasive species are spread when boats move from lake to lake without taking proper precautions. If we don't act now, Hubbard County lakes will soon be endangered."

Nearby Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County is infested with zebra mussels that rapidly colonize and attach to rocks and other hard surfaces like boats, docks, lifts, submerged pumps or water intake pipes. They can become so numerous that they clog intakes of power generating plants, waterworks, and other facilities.

The razor-sharp shells litter beaches and lake bottoms, making foot traffic dangerous and impassible. High densities of zebra mussels can quickly deplete the food resources that are essential to the survival of native fishes and other aquatic animals.

Otter Tail County COLA president Shawn Olson noted. "With more than 1,000 properties on Pelican Lake alone, our economic and business climate could be drastically affected by further spread of these invasives."

She continued, "We have more than 1,000 lakes in Otter Tail County and we know that development occurs primarily around these lakes. If a lake be-comes infested, our local economy takes a big hit."

Legislators invited from all districts representing the three counties and others nearby are Senators Keith Langseth, Rod Skoe, Gretchen Hoffman and John Carlson. Invited State Representatives are Kent Eken, Morrie Lanning, Paul Marquart, Mark Murdock, Bud Nornes, David Hancock and Larry Howes.

The agenda for the summit will address the current spread of invasives, the impact of AIS on tourism, business owners and homeowners, and preventive measures for the future. The financial affect on cities, counties and the state in times of very limited financial resources will also be a major topic of discussion. Representatives from the Minnesota DNR in St. Paul will be at-tending.

The goals of the summit are to define the AIS problem in specific environ-mental terms and to provide area legislators with a baseline knowledge of the economic impact of AIS on these three counties.

The Tri-County Aquatic Invasive Species Legislative Summit is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided both before and after the event.