May 25, 2018 - Public comment sought on Great Lakes Compact Council and regional body procedure updates

The Great Lakes Compact Council and the Great Lakes Regional Body are seeking public feedback on draft updates to the procedures for reviewing requests to divert water from the Great Lakes Basin. The compact is federal law that governs the use of water in the Great Lakes watershed. The compact council and regional body are accepting comments through June 21, at 4:30 p.m. 

Under the compact, diversions of water out of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin are generally prohibited. However, the compact identifies limited circumstances under which diversion may be allowed. In some instances, before a diversion proposal can be approved, it must undergo review by the regional body and may require approval by the compact council. The draft updates are strictly procedural and would not modify the compact’s basic terms.

The compact council is composed of the governors of the eight states that border the Great Lakes. The regional body includes the eight governors on the council plus the premiers of Ontario and Quebec. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is Gov. Mark Dayton’s delegate to both groups and provides data and water management expertise to assist implementing the compact.

The effort to refine the procedures under the compact follows the states’ and provinces’ first experience reviewing a diversion request under the agreement. Reflecting on that experience and feedback from stakeholder groups, the states and provinces concluded that some aspects of the procedures should be clarified or refined.

Following discussions with key stakeholders and tribal interests, the states and provinces developed the draft updates that were released for public review May 22. The updates include these changes:

  • Expands opportunities for the public to participate at hearings and public meetings.
  • Acknowledges the special status of First Nations and federally recognized Tribes through separate meetings with them and granting standing to contest compact council decisions.
  • Identifies circumstances under which an additional public comment period would be offered between issuance of the regional body’s declaration of finding and the compact council’s final decision. Essentially, if the compact council views the regional body’s modifications to the applicant’s diversion proposal as substantial, the council would take public comment prior to making its final decision. The existing public comment opportunity prior to the regional body’s deliberations would remain.

After considering public input received by June 21, the regional body will revise the draft procedural updates this summer. The compact council will then consider the updates and decide whether some or all of them should be adopted through rulemaking.

The draft updates are available at www.glslcompactcouncil.org/PUT-DraftUpdates.aspx.

This website includes instructions for sharing feedback. The public input process includes an in-person opportunity to share feedback in Duluth on June 21 at Fitger’s Inn at 10:30 a.m.

Documents are also available on the regional body website.



May 24, 2018 - ‘Dying’ evergreens may recover

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges property owners in the southern part of the state to wait one month before removing evergreens that are showing stress after a harsh winter and late spring. Some will recover. 

DNR forest health specialists have received reports of spruce, white cedar, and white pine that appeared to die suddenly in Fillmore, Houston, Freeborn, Goodhue, and Hennepin counties.

In some cases, up to 90 percent of needles in the upper canopy of spruce trees have fallen off, while the bottom branches remained green.

“In most instances, this extensive needle loss is the result of severe winter drying,” said Brian Schwingle, DNR forest health specialist. “Warm, windy days with low humidity in late April caused evergreen needles to lose moisture, and the frozen soil in the root zone prevented water from moving back into the needles to replace that moisture.”

Recently planted evergreens and smaller trees were hardest hit.

Schwingle recommends that people keep an eye on their evergreens and wait to see if they regain their canopy with new growth. Trees with 50 percent or more of their needle canopy remaining could recover.

For more information, see hort.uwex.edu/articles/winter-burn.



May 24, 2018 - Prepare now for a safe boating season

Before hitting the water for the first time this spring, boaters should ensure their boats, equipment and safety items are in legal and proper working order, the Department of Natural Resources said. They should also review regulations in the 2018 Minnesota Boating Guide or at the boat and water regulations page.  

“With this year’s late ice-out, boaters are especially anxious to get on the water and start enjoying the boating season,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR recreation safety outreach coordinator. “After waiting all winter to get back on the water, no one wants to break down, get a ticket or have a safety emergency.”

In addition to making sure boats are equipped with required safety items, boaters should take extra precautions during the cold-water season, when more than 30 percent of Minnesota’s boating fatalities occur. While children younger than 10 years old must wear life jackets while aboard watercraft that are underway (i.e., not tied to a dock or anchored for swimming), boat and water safety officials recommend all boaters wear life jackets anytime they’re on cold water, no matter their age.

“Wearing a life jacket is an important part of staying safe when the water is cold during the spring,” Dugan said. “In the event of an unexpected fall or capsizing, having a life jacket on can make all the difference.”

Adult boaters who are resistant to wearing a typical life jacket should consider inflatable styles designed to make preventive use more convenient and comfortable.

Before the season’s first launch, boaters should verify their motorboats are equipped with the following:

  • U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jackets for each person on board.
  • Type IV throwable flotation device on boats 16 feet or longer.
  • Horn or whistle.
  • Type B U.S. Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher.
  • Navigation lights in working order.
  • Valid boat registration, with numbers visible.
  • Marine carbon monoxide detector in some boats.

Watercraft can be registered in person at any deputy registrar of motor vehicles or at the DNR License Center in St. Paul. Registrations are good for three calendar years. Renewals can be done in person or online on the licenses and vehicle registration page.

More details, including boating safety tips and new laws, (among them Sophia’s Law and information on watercraft operator permit requirements) can be found in the boating guide at the boat and water regulations page.



May 21, 2018 - Great Lakes states to collaborate on West Nile virus monitoring in ruffed grouse

A region-wide effort to better understand West Nile virus in ruffed grouse is getting underway in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

“In the Great Lakes region, West Nile virus has been found in a small number of grouse with no known population-level effects at this point,” said Charlotte Roy, grouse project leader with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Still, we want to let hunters know we’re in the first steps of monitoring the virus, and we’re planning to do some limited testing of birds this fall.”

In 2017, West Nile virus was identified in more ruffed grouse in the Great Lakes states than in the past. The virus has been present in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin for about 17 years.

West Nile virus has been documented in more than 250 species of birds; however, not all birds develop clinical disease from the virus. Corvids (including blue jays and crows) are very prone to illness and death from the virus, while other species may be less so or may not develop symptoms at all.

Last year, Michigan had 12 positive cases of West Nile virus in ruffed grouse. Prior to 2017, only one positive ruffed grouse had been found in Michigan, and that was in 2002. The virus was confirmed in one ruffed grouse in the early 2000s in Minnesota, and is yet to have been detected in a Wisconsin ruffed grouse.

West Nile virus in ruffed grouse has become a topic of concern because of a recent study in Pennsylvania reporting that the virus may have contributed to population declines in areas of lower-quality habitat or where habitat was scarce.

Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are in the early stages of planning to test samples from grouse this fall but at this point there is no evidence that the virus is having a population-level impact in the Great Lakes region.

“By monitoring birds at a regional level, we will be able to gain a better understanding of this disease in ruffed grouse,” said Kelly Straka, state wildlife veterinarian with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Ruffed grouse are hunted annually by around 300,000 hunters across the three states. Preliminary reports from 2017 hunters were mixed across the Great Lakes region. While the virus could impact brood survival of grouse, other factors such as cold, wet springs during nesting and hatching; drought conditions; or habitat decline can also affect birds seen and harvested.

Biologists in the region are optimistic that the great habitat for ruffed grouse in the Great Lakes states will help populations thrive despite the virus.

“We are looking to hunters and outdoor enthusiasts to help us in this endeavor,” said Mark Witecha, upland wildlife ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “This is an excellent example of agencies and organizations taking a proactive approach and working together to expand our knowledge about WNV and ruffed grouse.”

Recently, the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Health Committee held its annual meeting in Traverse City, Michigan. West Nile virus was one of the topics for state wildlife health leaders. More than 25 wildlife health professionals from 13 Midwestern states and Canada were in attendance.

Individual agencies are currently reviewing ways they will be monitoring their grouse populations for West Nile virus, and additional information will be shared when more details are determined.

Like humans, wild animals can be exposed to West Nile virus and survive the exposure. Currently, there is no evidence of humans becoming infected by consuming properly cooked birds or by handling birds. Research has shown dogs can be infected but are very resistant to developing clinical signs of the disease and are considered an end host.

Ruffed grouse hunting is open in the fall and Minnesota hunting information can be found at mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse.



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DNR News MAY 25th

Public comment sought on Great Lakes Compact Council and regional body procedure updates

The Great Lakes Compact Council and the Great Lakes Regional Body are seeking public feedback on draft updates to the procedures for reviewing requests to divert water from the Great Lakes Basin. The compact is federal law that governs the use of wat...

Read More