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DNR to review Crow Wing lakes ordinance; county AIS coordinator resigns

A proposed amendment to Hubbard County Ordinance No. 10, which regulates watercraft speeds on First, Second and Third Crow Wing lakes, is moving forward.

In October, Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes asked county commissioners to remove language that restricts watercrafts to less than 15 mph between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 a.m on the three lakes. The ordinance was written in 1978.

The county planning commission conducted a Nov. 27 public hearing on the amendment.

About a half-dozen parties offered comment, Hubbard County Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf told the county board last week. He said opinion was split evenly between those "for" and "against" the revision.

The planning commission's motion to deleting the watercraft language pertaining to the three Crow Wing lakes passed 3-1, with Tim Johnson voting "nay." Hubbard County Planning Commission Chair Ken Grob was absent for the hearing.

Before adoption, Buitenwerf said the county must send the draft amendment to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for review.

"I don't foresee it taking long, but the DNR does give themselves 120 days to review and respond," he said.

The county board would then hold a public hearing about the proposed ordinance changes.

County Commissioner Dan Stacey received one phone call and Commissioner Ed Smith received two emails opposed to the amendment.

Johannsen said he heard a couple people voicing strong opposition in the parking lot, but neither spoke during the hearing.

"I want to remind the board that you can't allow the public to dictate law. Just because you live along Highway 71, should you get to dictate laws are on the highway? No. It's no different on the lakes," Aukes said. "I really have an issue with how this came about. It's not out of the ordinary to have a speed limit on lakes. Generally, it's a public safety issue — that's the reasoning behind it. Here, that wasn't the case. I will call it 'dirty pool' how it came about. My research finds it was a resort owner and area fishermen who wanted it calm in the evening when they fish."

Public safety reasons do not exist for Ordinance No. 10, he continued.

"It's just not fair. It's hard to enforce," he said.

"It's impossible to enforce," said Vice Chair Cal Johannsen.

"Plus, they talked about the boats planing out. It's actually more of a wake," said County Commissioner Char Christenson.

"When your boat is plowing, your don't have good visibility," Aukes added. "So there's a lot of things going against this ordinance."

The board approved sending the draft amendment to the DNR.

"I wonder if things are actually going to change that much if the ordinance goes away?" asked Smith.

"Probably not" was the board consensus.

"I bet a good share of property owners on these lakes didn't know this ordinance exists," said Board Chair Vern Massie.

Aukes suggested more people will fish on First, Second and Third Crow Wing lakes if the amendment passes.

"There's some people who don't fish them in the evenings because of the ordinance. I can see it might be utilized a little bit more," he said.

AIS coordinator resigns

The county board accepted the resignation of Bill DonCarlos, Hubbard County aquatic invasive species program coordinator, effective Dec. 22. DonCarlos joined Hubbard County Environmental Services Office in May 2016. The board authorized filling the vacancy, per the restructuring that they approved on Oct. 17.

"We'd transition that position to an environmental specialist with AIS as the prominent duty for that individual," Buitenwerf said.

Johannsen noted the job title expands the number of duties for the individual without increasing staff.

"It will also allow us to diplomatically tell certain groups that are taking an inordinate amount of time that there are other things he or she needs to be doing," said Buitenwerf.

In related business, the county board authorized the Environmental Services Office to forward one subsurface sewage treatment system ordinance violation and one shoreland management ordinance violation to the county attorney's office for further enforcement.

"One's a failing septic system that's two years past due," said Buitenwerf. "The other is a violation of removing vegetation and earth in the shore impact zone."

DonCarlos later stated, "I am leaving Hubbard County to pursue a job in the sporting goods industry. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here at Hubbard County but it is time for something different."