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Plan To Control Zebra Mussels Creates Controversy

SHOREWOOD, Minn. (WCCO) -- With its pristine waters and abundant fish, Ian Hodge loves bringing his boat to Shorewood's Christmas Lake.

While fighting to get his motor started, Hodge quipped, "It's deep, it's clean, it's nice."

It's not nearly as congested as the ever popular Lake Minnetonka just across the road.

But soon, boaters and anglers just might find the lake's public water access controlled by an electronic gate. The city of Shorewood and the Christmas Lake Homeowner's Association have a pilot plan to limit access to the lake in hopes of fighting invasive species.

Boaters like Hodge are voicing skepticism, saying, "where does it begin, where does it end? If you gate one (lake), everybody's going to want their lake gated. I just don't think it's a good idea."

In its statewide fight to control the spread of invasive species like Eurasian water milfoil and the more damaging zebra mussel, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources watercraft inspectors are fanning out across the state to check boats that might be transporting invasive species. State law prohibits boat owners from transporting a boat without first draining the bilge or live well to make certain they're not inadvertently spreading the foreign invaders.

Still, their efforts to monitor landings are being done on a "hit-or-miss" basis. It's both impossible and cost prohibitive to keep a 24-hour vigil on every Minnesota lake. So the responsibility of stopping the spread lies on the shoulders of boaters.

But Christmas Lake homeowners and the city of Shorewood say that battle plan is not good enough. So they're planning the more extreme measure to limit unfettered lake access.

"This isn't about keeping the public out," argued lake association president Joe Schneider.

He said the plan would install a code-activated gate at the entrance to the landing. Boaters would have to trailer their boat to a nearby centralized location, such as Minnewashta Park, where DNR watercraft inspectors would be on the clock. After a brief inspection, providing the boat is clean, the owner would be given a one-day code that would open the access gate.

"You'll use that code number to open the gate, just like at a car wash. You'll come in, you'll put your boat in, you'll leave when you want to leave," Schneider explained.

Still, the plan has its skeptics, people who think it's a thinly-veiled attempt to limit boating activity on a lake surrounded by expensive homes. Yet, surprisingly, anglers who were using the landing on a Monday weren't totally against the idea. They call the fight to control the spread of zebra mussels a bigger threat than open access.

"I don't know, it would be a hassle but you got to do something about the mussel. I haven't seen it yet, but I've heard it's really bad," said boater Lonnie Amundsen.

Keeping the mussels out just might do the same to some boaters.

Stan Munkelwitz fishes the lake on a regular basis and says, "I don't mind having a gate so long as we're not breaking the law to be allowed to park here publicly."

While the boat landing is owned by the city of Shorewood, any decision on installing the gate would likely need the approval of the DNR.

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