Letter: Official’s remarks were prophetic

Published 10:48 pm Friday, November 17, 2017

I’m (ticked)! The Tribune’s articles on dredging really got to me. In a logical world, dredging of Fountain Lake should have started five years ago. But with the DNR in southern Minnesota, nothing is logical or reasonable.

Efforts to clean up our lakes began in the late ’30s or early ’40s. I became involved in the early ’90s and was very involved for 10 years. I served on the chamber’s Lake Restoration Committee, the county committee that developed Shell Rock River Water Management Plan, helped develop the petition for a Watershed District and served on the Watershed Board.

The Freeborn County committee that developed the Shell Rock River Watershed Management Plan, consisted of DNR staff, county staff, city staff, members of the Lake Restoration Committee and other concerned citizens. The committee’s deliberations were very intense over many months. The DNR signed off on the final draft, which included provisions to dredge Albert Lea Lake from the Interstate-35 bridge to Albert Lea.

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Dredging Fountain Lake was just a footnote in this plan. At the time, the DNR considered Fountain Lake to be an artificial impoundment owned by the city. Dredging Fountain Lake was a non-issue.

To understand the DNR, you need to realize how it functions. About 15 years ago, I was in a meeting with a prominent DNR official in St Paul. I’m afraid I pushed his buttons, for he threw his arms in the air, looked at me and said, “You simply don’t understand how the DNR functions. We take our directions from the Legislature. The Legislature is influenced by lobbyists. Your nemesis is the resort lobby in northern Minnesota. The last thing they want is a big fishing/recreational lake that’s highly visible from I-35 in southern Minnesota. If you have any hope of dredging you will need to get very political and get the Legislature to overrule long-term DNR policies. Currently we (the DNR) do not support dredging and will do everything possible to slow down or stop your projects and will make them as expensive as possible.”

These statements have proven to be very prophetic.

Don Sorensen

Albert Lea