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Board discusses aquatic invasive species

BEMIDJI — Yet again, an expansive, county-wide plan to deal with a burgeoning issue was the subject of discussion among the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners.

Two weeks ago it was recycling; Tuesday it was aquatic invasive species.

“People agree on one thing at this point,” said District 2 Commissioner Joe Vene. “Doing nothing is not an alternative.”

In a presentation to the board in the work session of its regular meeting, Dr. Ralph Morris, of the Turtle River Watershed Association, stressed the need for a comprehensive plan. Along with Environmental Services Director Bill Patnaude, Morris said the protection of Beltrami County lakes and rivers from invasive species is in its infancy.

“It’s not quite nothing,” Morris said of his and Patnaude’s efforts. “We are doing education.”

So far, that education includes the distribution of cards to boaters that outline practices to prevent invasive plants and animals from entering bodies of water. But, Patnaude said, Beltrami County faces the same dilemma as the state of Minnesota in such prevention.

“It’s not just us, the state has no comprehensive plan,” he said.

The possible implementation of a plan comes after one invasive species — the zebra mussel — was found in Lake Winnibigoshish in late January. The card handed out to boaters also identifies Eurasion watermilfoil, purple loosestrife, curly-leaf pond wee, rusty crayfish, spiny waterflea and the New Zealand mud snail as enemies of Beltrami County waterways.

In his presentation, Morris recommended that the board partner with the state, lake associations, private groups and tribal governments. Morris identified Upper Red Lake as a “high risk area.”

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently formed an advisory committee to look into the issue, Morris said, and County Administrator Kay Mack suggested a similar path for the board.

“I think everyone is going to want an action plan going forward,” she said. “What I would throw out there right now is to form a small working group to come up with a plan. Whether you own property on a lake or not doesn’t mean that you don’t care about the quality of our waters.”

Other business

— The board approved a grant of $10,000 to go toward the construction of mountain bike and snowshoe trails in the Movil Maze Recreation Area. The Beltrami County Department of Natural Resource Management will partner with the North Star Trail Builders to construct the trails. The funds will come from the Federal Recreational Trails Program and will pay for rental of construction equipment and labor.

— Approved a proposed subdivision at the former Anglers Beach Resort in Ten Lake Township. Anglers Beach Buddies LLC of Grand Forks, N.D., plans to use the nearly 60 acres of land near Cass Lake to construct four single-family homes.

— Adopted job evaluation ratings for the assistant county attorney and chief assistant county attorney positions, resulting in an increase in pay. Total gross salaries for the five assistant county attorneys will range from $71,929 to $76,827 depending on the length of their employment, County Administrator Kay Mack said. For the position of chief assistant county attorney, annual salary was upgraded to $83,045. The pay upgrades represent an increase of $15,025 for County Attorney Tim Faver’s office.

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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