Tag Archives: Minnesota

Car-delivery service attempts to drive others out of business

For residents of Winona, Minnesota, a college city on the
Mississippi, the possibilities on how to get from Point A to Point B are plentiful.

The city offers a four-route shuttle bus system, a taxicab company and a recreation center equipped with canoes, rollerblades and bicycles.

If all else fails, a scenic stroll can get someone almost anywhere worth going in about 20 minutes.

One thing Winona didn’t have until 2018 was Lyft, a direct driver-to-rider, cashless car service controlled solely by cell phones.

As part of the Rochester Area radius, the service extends from Red Wing to Albert Lea.

The first step in the Lyft process is to create a rider or driver profile.

Once the profile is created, users input a debit or credit card which allows money to be withdrawn as a rider and deposited as a driver.

From there, riders can type in their point for pick-up and drop off.

What happens next?

The nearest driver will be on their way to the designated pick-up point.

Lyft driver sticker in front of vehicle window
All drivers who have made it through the company screening process of their driving record, license and insurance will be able to mark their vehicle as Lyft-certified with a sticker in the front and back.

While the idea of getting in a stranger’s vehicle may make some
uneasy, Lyft implemented the ability for riders and drivers alike to watch a digitized progression of the ride.

Lex Lea, a Winona State University junior (in the featured photo above), jumped at the chance to join Lyft this past summer and make money doing an enjoyable task for her: driving.

She’s been a driver with Lyft for six months.

Lyft ran a background check, driver’s record check and confirmation of her license and insurance.

Every element of the application is approved individually. Drivers cannot begin until all parts have passed Lyft’s driver screening.

Lea said Lyft periodically offers instructional videos to help prepare drivers to handle situations with riders.

While she likes Lyft for its flexible hours, Lea said she uses it for fast cash and not as her primary income.

It can take a considerable amount of drives with the minimum rate that starts at $3.64 and goes up per mile.

Part of the payment for her though is the entertaining riders.

A car ceiling full of collector buttons
Riders can tip and rate drivers on quality and efficiency of the rider’s trip. Lex Lea boosts her rating with a conversation-starting element to her car: a car ceiling decked out with her collectible-button collection.

One of Lea’s favorite interactions came from a group of drunken girls who “hyped her up” by persistently calling everyone in the car, Lea included, “on point and so pretty.”

“It’s interesting that drunk people always think that they’re found to be annoying by sober people. I don’t mind, though. It’s entertaining and much better than sitting at home.”

Kaitlyn Tenney, a Winona State senior, started with Lyft in October as she saw her dad go through the process, which she described as “super easy.”

When Tenney drives, she said she prefers Thursday to Saturday nights until bar close around 1 a.m.

Despite drunken antics, Tenney said the service makes sense for Winona.

“It’s a useful service for the bar scene and convenient because
almost everyone has a phone,” Tenney said.

According to Tenney, she’s had riders who use it if they’re unable to drive and need to get to work, pick up groceries and get to
treatment groups.

As more people learn of the service, Lyft may become the primary way to get around Winona.

The story behind Pickwick Mill

The Pickwick Mill in Pickwick, Minnesota, started in 1856 by Thomas Grant and Wilson Davis. 

The building started as a sawmill but was later converted to produce flour. It is the oldest flour mill found in Southeast Minnesota. 

The mill was a water-powered gristmill on Big Trout Creek. 

In 1917 the roof was damaged by a cyclone. When it was repaired they put a flat roof on instead of the gable roof. 

When the historical society took it over they returned the roof to the gable roof it originally had. 

The mill has several flights of stairs each with the names of people who have worked there.

Now the mill is still intact but is no longer used to make flour. It stands as a historic site and museum. 

George Johnson, of Rushford, Minnesota, visited the mill on Saturday, Oct. 5. He said he thought it was a beautiful historic place. 

Jeff Wershofen started working at the mill as a child because it was where there was adult supervision. 

Throughout the mill, there are flour bags hung. On the top floor of the mill, they have many strung together with other artifacts.

Wershofen described his experience at the mill as part of a perfect childhood. 

To find out more about Pickwick Mill and Wershofen’s experiences watch the following video.

Lake City restaurant to open doors in Winona

Traveling from one river city to another, Lake City’s Nosh Restaurant will move to downtown Winona in three months.

Nosh first opened its doors in June 2004 in Wabasha, Minnesota. Greg Jaworski, owner of Nosh Restaurant, moved to their current Lake City, Minnesota location in April 2007.

With almost a dozen years experience in Lake City, the Jaworski family initially looked at the lot formerly occupied by Godfather’s Pizza in Winona, but finalized their plans to open their restaurant on the corner of Walnut and Second streets.

Construction continues on the soon-to-be Nosh location on the corner of Second and Walnut streets in Winona.

“We were approached by people from the city of Winona who had private investors behind them,” Jaworski said. “We loved the community in Lake City, but winters were too long, and when we were contacted we ended up deciding to make the move.”

Pat Mutter, executive director of Visit Winona, was one of the people involved in the process of bringing Nosh to Winona.

“I am part of a group that has been working on trying to talk to people about what kind of restaurant they want in town or what is missing and what’s needed,” Mutter said. “Nosh came about from checking with certain chefs and passing word along that we’re trying to get restaurants in town. It was great that it turned out that (Jaworski) was interested, and we were very happy to go along that path.”

Though Jaworski was initially approached to bring Nosh Restaurant to Winona, Mutter said Visit Winona does not always approach companies to relocate to Winona. Mutter continued by saying the mission of Visit Winona is to market and promote Winona as a destination.

“When we talk about great things in Winona, one thing we hear about is having more restaurants. We have a very good selection of casual restaurants in town, but we’re working with corporate businesses who are looking for places to bring their clients and more places you could actually sit down and have a different experience,” Mutter said.

Mutter said even though they are working on bringing more businesses to town, this does not mean they no longer care about current Winona businesses.

“We want to support restaurants in town, we just want to make and give value to customers to have as many choices and variety as possible,” Mutter said. “We don’t usually go out, but when we travel the question is always there, what kind of restaurants do they have? People are always looking for something local, and more variety is better for residents and people who come to town. The more choices we have, the more hope we have of them staying in town to eat.”

Mutter said one of the main reasons they approached Nosh was due to their current brand.

“Nosh has a great reputation, and it will be great to have them here as a destination restaurant,” Mutter said. “They are a known and popular product. They will bring loyal customers with them.”

With construction underway, Jaworski said they plan to open their Winona location in June, while keeping the Lake City location open until a few weeks before the Winona location opens.

In between closing the Wabasha location and opening the Lake City location, Jaworski said there was about a week when neither location was open. Jaworski said this time the transition might take a bit longer.

“We expect to be in Lake City until May, then shut down and take two or three weeks to prepare for Winona and do it correctly from day one,” Jaworski said. “The trip from Lake City to Winona is much longer than Wabasha to Lake City, so it will take us longer to move everything to this location than it did for the last move.”

With construction a few months from completion, Jaworski said not much will be changed, but certain aspects will be improved.

“It would be foolish to try to tweak what has been successful, changing wasn’t the aim of bringing Nosh here,” Jaworski said. “Continuity of our existing reputation will just shift to Winona. There will be slight tweaks, a larger grill, and focusing more on what’s trending, woodfire, smoke, fresh breads. There will be improvements, but I don’t like the word ‘changes.’”

An improvement to the bar area is one other aspect Jaworski is planning.

“We will be trying to take a more modern approach to the bar program,” Jaworski said. “We will be redesigning the bar, and hope to focus more on that and trends. Status quo is the goal.”

Along with slight changes to the restaurant itself, Jaworski described how the change in location will affect the environment of the business.

“It’s kind of interesting, Lake City is right on top of the Mississippi and the sailboat arena, all with a stunning view of the midwest,” Jaworski said. “The new location is more focused inward in Winona, there’s not a whole lot to look at, which will make what’s on the plate or in the glass more important. It will be challenging to be focused solely on what we’re providing as opposed to the benefit of the view.”

Tom Wynn, the business manager of Nosh, spoke about another one of the challenges Nosh might face when transitioning to Winona.

“I think one thing that’s going to be a challenge is workforce,” Wynn said. “Although we have a much broader pool here in Winona than Lake City, it’s still a challenge to find qualified servers and workers.”

It will not all be challenges, as Wynn also talked about aspects he is excited for during the move.

“There’s so much going on in downtown Winona, I think our timing is going to be excellent to take advantage of the new apartment buildings, Fastenal coming down, and I think we’re going to give Winona something that they’ve needed for years and years,” Wynn said.

Though the company will face challenges, Jaworski said he is excited for the new location.

“There’s more people to appeal to in Winona, there is a niche that isn’t quite being hit on,” Jaworski said. “We’re not fine dining, not trying to compete with Signatures, but we have a nicer feel than some of the existing restaurants, with an emphasis on locally-sourced food.”

Winona liquor stores, congress people welcome new Minnesota Sunday sale law

By Samantha Stetzer

“Stores in Winona will be somewhat disappointed in Sunday sales,” Wisconsin Liquor storeowner Dave Pirkl said. “Careful what you wish for over there.”

There’s no resting on Sundays for the employees of Wine House, a liquor store nestled partially up the bluffs along Bluff Siding, Wisconsin, since 1951.

Sundays are their busiest day of the week, according to seven-year owner Dave Pirkl. The main pull for its Sunday sales stemmed from a law in Minnesota barring alcohol sales on Sunday, Pirkl said.

That is about to change.

Wine House liquor storeowner Dave Pirkl helps a distributor and early customer on Wednesday morning. A new law in Minnesota allowing their liquor store owners to sell on Sundays is something Pirkl said he is a bit nervous for as a Wisconsin liquor storeowner, but he is not too concerned due to the benefits he still has by selling in Wisconsin.

With an 88-39 vote in the Minnesota House of Representatives, a 38-28 vote in the Senate and a signature by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, Minnesota liquor stores will now be able to sell their product on Sundays between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The law goes into effect on July 1, with liquor stores opening their doors on a Sunday for the first time the following day.

Minnesota Rep. Gene Pelowski, who serves Winona County, said he supported the bill largely because of the competition across the border in Wisconsin and the public support it was gaining.

“It certainly does have an impact,” Pelowski said, adding there was not much debate within the house about ridding the state of its more than 150-year-old law barring the Sunday sales.

Minnesota Senator Jeremy Miller, who also represents Winona, helped co-author the new law because of the same public support.

“They feel it’s ridiculous that stores don’t have the option to be open on Sundays,” Miller said. “This was the strongest grassroots effort by the people that I’ve seen on any issue during my time in the Senate.”

Since entering the senate in 2011, Miller worked on flipping the law to allow Sunday liquor sales because he said he believes publically and politically Sunday should be viewed as the same as every other day of the week.

Miller he did not get the exact bill he said he originally wanted.

The original bill did not have any time restrictions on the Sunday sales. Working with religious leaders and compromising with other members of the Minnesota legislature, the bill was able to pass with the 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. time limit, according to Miller.

“To me it really comes down to, the people wanted to be able to buy their beer, wine and liquor on Sundays in Minnesota,” Miller said. “They should have the option.”

Darin Egeland, storeowner of Warehouse Liquor in Winona, said the new option for consumers is an opportunity for business owners to have another day for revenue.

Egeland said he will open on Sundays because he said stores on border towns in Minnesota “almost have to” to cash in on the money that could stay in Minnesota.


“I would say we’d lost money across the border,” Egeland said.

Stacks of beer line the aisles of Warehouse Liquor in Winona. Owner Darin Egeland, who wished to not be pictured, said he is looking forward to having another day to make a profit with the passing of a new Minnesota liquor law allowing stores to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Egeland said he is not sure he can get his employees to agree to work another day during the week, and opening on a day he has designated as a day off is not something he is excited about.

Still, he added the possibility of increased revenue is hopeful for him and his little store at the intersection of Market and Third streets in Winona.

As for his competition across the border, Egeland said he believes the Wine House will struggle with the new change.

“He’ll probably be crying,” Egeland said about Pirkl. “For him it’s going to be a kick in the ass.”

While he supported opening his store on Sunday, Egeland is most worried about the possibilities of the legislature lifting restrictions on grocery stores and gas stations selling alcohol in Minnesota. Currently, Minnesota statutes state liquor establishments must be used to sell primarily alcohol, according to state statute 340A.412

Other stores can get around this law by having their own liquor store building next to their establishment or selling malt liquor with an alcohol content of 3.2 or less, according to state statute 340A.403.

If the law changes to allow establishments like convenience stores, grocery stories and drugstores to sell liquor inside the store—such as what is currently allowed in Wisconsin, according to Chapter 125 of the Wisconsin Statutes—Egeland said he fears it will put him and his local competitors out of business.

His distributor, Chris Schafer from Schott Distributing in Rochester,

Minnesota, said their company is also against cutting the restriction on convenience and grocery stores because of the added work without proper compensation it would cause.

According to Schafer, the company would not necessarily gain massive amounts of money or accounts, but rather, they would have to increase the flow of alcohol across the areas they distribute to, causing a mass overhaul in the company dynamic.

“It’s going to kill us,” Schafer said.

Schafer said he supported the Sunday sales bill in Minnesota.

Despite  fears by local owners and distributors, Pelowksi and Miller said they do not foresee more changes to the Minnesota laws in the near future.

“I think this is the biggest change you’re going to see for a long time,” Pelowski said.

Miller added, “I don’t think the appetite is there in the Senate to do more than what we already did. Allowing liquor stores to be open on Sundays was a big step forward for the legislature, and I don’t anticipate any further progress.”

Pirkl, who has only owned a store in a state where grocery stores can sell booze and Sunday sales are not restricted, admitted the initial change to the Minnesota law may impact his business negatively.  He added he cannot know until a year after the law is in effect what that change will be.

While Wisconsin laws allow grocery stores and convenience stores in Wisconsin to sell alcohol of all kinds, Pirkl said he does not have to compete much against the bigger box stores since there is a minimum mark-up law in Wisconsin.

This law, under the Wisconsin Unfair Sales Act, essentially restricts the large retail stores from selling at a cheaper price than what smaller businesses can. As a small business, this means Pirkl can compete with larger chains that can sell alcohol in Wisconsin, such as Kwik Trip or Festival Foods.

For the last seven years, Sundays have always been a bonus day for the Wine House, Pirkl said, but even with the new Minnesota law, he said he is confident his “loyal customers,” legal ability to sell Wisconsin beers and wines, such New Glarus beers and Elmaro wines, and Wisconsin’s lack of restrictions on his open hours on Sunday are what will keep his Sunday sales up.

He added his location along the Wisconsin border will also benefit him, since community members in small towns along the river do not have many options to buy alcohol.

Pirkl said he does not have much confidence for his added border competition.

“Stores in Winona will be somewhat disappointed in Sunday sales,” Pirkl said. “Careful what you wish for over there.”

Winona State sidewalks pave way to campus beauty

by Allison Mueller

When Darrell Krueger began his presidency at Winona State University in 1989, he had big plans for the campus – plans that earned him the title of “absolutely crazy.”

The vice president of university advancement at the time, Gary Evans, said he and Krueger would often walk around campus, speaking to people and looking at the grounds. During the early 1990s, the streets bordering the university ran through the campus.

“I remember he and I were making that walk one day when he stopped and said to me, ‘We need to close all these streets,’” Evans said. “I remember saying specifically to Darrell, ‘You’re absolutely crazy… the city of Winona will never allow that to happen.’”

Krueger said he simply saw the need for the campus to match its surroundings.

“The river and bluffs are so beautiful, yet the campus had streets all the way through it,” he said.

Evans said once Krueger developed what campus would look like without streets, resources were needed to make it happen. After people began to support Krueger’s vision, Winona State went to the state university board for an allocation, and it was approved.

Since then, campus beautification at Winona State has been of high importance to faculty, staff and students.

While Krueger took the initiative to change the campus, he said when the first street was transformed into a wide sidewalk, “People started to see other possibilities.”

Over the next few years, donations were received from alumni, community members, faculty and staff to further beautify the campus. Krueger said some of the most well-known and enjoyed elements on campus were donations: the benches, gardens near the Performing Arts Center and Gildemeister Hall, Lauren’s Pond, gazebo and many trees.

After Krueger retired as Winona State’s president in 2005, Evans, who left Winona State in 1998, said the campus fell into “pretty serious neglect.” Eight years later, Evans returned for a three-year stint as interim vice president and heard the current president, Scott Olson, discuss the beauty of the campus in a university meeting.

“It was no question – the campus was, and is, beautiful,” Evans said. “The fact also remained that it was a pale resemblance of its former self.”

Olson made sure a budget was available for the maintenance department to transform the campus back into its previous state and maintain its beauty.

Evans explained upholding the image of Winona State to future Warriors as an “extremely important component” to future enrollment.

“It’s been proven over and over again that prospective students that come to look at Winona State are stunned by the beauty of campus,” Evans said. “That, combined with the beauty of the community, is responsible for recruiting a great deal of students to the university.”

As Olson began to place emphasis on the appearance of the campus, Jim Reynolds, a now-retired Winona State sociology professor, was placed as co-chair of the WSU Landscape Arboretum Committee.

Until the early 1990s, roads cut through Winona State's campus. Wide sidewalks now replace the roads as part of the university's efforts to beautify campus.
Until the early 1990s, roads cut through Winona State’s campus. Wide sidewalks now replace the roads as part of the university’s efforts to beautify campus.

According to Reynolds, the Arboretum is concerned with campus beautification as well as developing the campus to be representative of the diverse southeastern Minnesota biome.

The Arboretum’s goal is to promote this unique landscape on Winona State grounds, create opportunities for the campus to be used as a living classroom and laboratory, continue to develop the native species on campus and model ethical use of land and practices.

Reynolds said a big accomplishment for the committee was appointing an Arboretum director and landscape architect, Lisa Pearson, who has a “wealth of experience.”

At the start of January 2017, Reynolds passed his committee chair position to Pearson and Allison Quam, a Winona State faculty member. These women now manage a staff that includes a senior groundskeeper and horticulturist, turf and irrigation specialist, certified arborist, and student landscape workers.

Evans recalled a Winona State maintenance employee (Bill Meyer, a now-retired groundskeeper) telling Krueger, shortly after the street transformation, that he thought Winona State was close to having every tree native to Minnesota on the campus grounds. This thought turned into another campus goal for Winona State.

As the number of native trees grew over the years, a complete tree inventory has recently been done of the campus. The inventory reveals there are more than 1,500 trees on Winona State’s campus comprised of 143 species. Reynolds said it is important to maintain diversity in the university’s tree stock.

“We don’t want to develop a monoculture of one type of tree,” he said. “That’s not healthy.”

Two years ago, a rapid restoration of the entire university landscape was conducted. Reynolds said the majority of the funding for these significant expenditures came from a settlement with the DuPont Corporation.

Prior to the restoration, Winona State had used lawn fertilizer from DuPont that was mistakenly toxic to trees. Reynolds said Winona State lost around 100 trees due to the use of this fertilizer, and Winona State received a sizable settlement from the corporation in the nationwide lawsuit. The Arboretum used the settlement for the restoration, which involved hiring a Rochester firm to assess and prune the trees across campus.

Reynolds said the rapid restoration was “such a mammoth undertaking that our staff just wouldn’t have had the time to do. It involved a couple dozen people from firm devoting an intensive amount of time.”

The time and effort the university’s Landscape Arboretum has put into planting and maintaining the trees on campus, combined with involvement in Arbor Day activities, earned Winona State recognition as a Tree Campus USA the past three years.

In an effort to educate the public and its students about the trees on campus, the Arboretum sponsors tree tours in the summer and fall months. Many of the trees on university grounds display a label with its respective popular name, scientific name and a QR code to scan and give smartphone users more information and photos about the species of tree.

While strides have been made in beautifying Winona State’s campus, Reynolds explained the Arboretum is a long-term project that will continually evolve. This includes using an organic approach to maintaining the university’s landscape, transitioning away from commercial flowers to more native plants of southeastern Minnesota and developing a river landscape feature in the central part of the main campus.

Reynolds said these changes would enhance students’ learning in the landscape as an outdoor classroom and appeal to the public.

“We want to see Winona State’s campus become a destination point for travelers passing through the area,” Reynolds said.

Today, as tourists, community members, students, staff and faculty walk the sidewalks on campus to admire the bio-diversity and beauty, Evans emphasized the importance of Krueger’s definitive words during their stroll on campus in 1989.

Evans said there is no question that removing the roads was “the first critical step in beautifying the campus.”

While Krueger may have started the campus beautification initiative, he said it has taken “a whole community to make the Winona State campus as beautiful as it is now.”

Krueger said, “I’m very thankful to have been able to serve and have the support we had during those times from the city, state, faculty and staff, and the students. The students led a lot of these changes.”

Reynolds said the Landscape Arboretum Committee would like to see more student-engagement regarding projects related to their academic programs. He suggested there needs to be a new culture and attitude on campus about maintaining the landscape.

He said, “Everyone has to pitch in on this. Not just the landscape staff, but students, faculty and staff as well.”

With a tight budget and recent cuts, Evans said this is a threat to the Landscape Arboretum, just as any program.

“I would hate to see any less spent on campus beautification than is currently being spent,” he said. “I certainly hope that campus beautification is never again allowed to become deficient.”

MN DNR Makes Changes to Aquatic Invasive Species Law

Boaters on Minnesota waters are supposed to take measures to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. A new law might have boaters staying off Minnesota water and roadways altogether.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Statute 86B.13 will require boaters to take an educational training course about aquatic invasive species and pass an online test to legalize the transportation of watercrafts to and from different bodies of water.

Common aquatic invasive species include the zebra mussel. Image created by Jordan Gerard.
Common aquatic invasive species include the zebra mussel. Image created by Jordan Gerard.

April Rust, an invasive species training coordinator for the DNR, said a lot of aquatic invasive species laws were changed in 2011 and 2012. In the legislation package, one of them was a required boat sticker, four inches wide and eight inches tall, which stated the aquatic invasive species laws.

“What the law stated was anyone that was using any watercraft in Minnesota would have to put the sticker somewhere on their boat, just so they would have the laws with them,” Rust said. “People did not like it and it was less than a year in the next legislative session, that thing was repealed. We had printed some and already had gotten them out and so there was a lot of confusion about it and there was no training or education requirement. All it said was that you need one of these stickers that are free at a DNR office. Call or stop by and get one and put it on your boat.”

Rust said it was very unpopular and the legislature repealed it, but there was “incredible pressure” by groups, lake associations and citizen groups who wanted make sure people knew and followed aquatic invasive species laws.

The new 2015 program, originally set to launch in January and officially required on July 1, 2015, would have boaters take an online course for $5 to learn about aquatic invasive species and then to pass a ten-point quiz at the end, which can be taken as many times as people need. They would receive a decal to be display on their trailers and renew it once every three years, Rust said. If owners have more than one watercraft, they can receive extra stickers.

There was also a paper version ready to be printed for those who do not have Internet, which would cost $11. The $5 online fee would cover the vendor’s costs to manage and host the online content, Rust said.

“Anyone transporting water related equipment in Minnesota would need to take the short course,” Rust said. “And the course in the statute says that the course will instruct people about aquatic invasive species and aquatic invasive species laws in Minnesota.”

Rust said she isn’t sure where the idea came from, be it legislation, citizen groups or staff, but the DNR did not start it.

“This wasn’t ours necessarily, other than we got pulled into it because of our jurisdiction,” Rust said. “So the purpose was to just to make sure that people knew aquatic invasive species laws and to follow it to lower the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species.”

Aquatic invasive species are not native to specific bodies of water and cause environmental or human harm. Zebra mussels, specific types of carp, and weeds are the most invasive species, which can suffocate native plants and disrupt natural habitats, according to the DNR. A full list is available at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/index.html.

The DNR said aquatic invasive species are spread by not washing off aquatic plants from trailers and watercraft, not draining live wells or water tanks before leaving boat landings, not removing drain plugs and releasing live bait into the water.

Rust said there was mixed opposition and support of the law, but most people wanted to comply with the law.

“They got a lot of phone calls and I would say just from talking to them and from the calls I got, the majority of people calling just wanted to ask questions or get registered to take the course,” Rust said.

Rust said she teaches aquatic invasive species training for businesses that require permits, such as lake associations, boat haulers and irrigators, which take a three-hour training, every three years, and pay $50 for a permit.

“At least 20 percent of them were gung-ho about it, and then a bunch in the middle who just had logistical questions or just wanted to get it and didn’t express an opinion either way,” Rust said.

She estimated about 10 percent of boaters were upset about the law, and those are the ones who have been active and gotten legislators involved. There’s a Facebook group, “Repeal MN Statute 86B.13,” which has 3,450 likes and posts updates about the law’s progress in the legislature. Rust added there is “a lot of misinformation about the program out there.”

“It’s not to dismiss it. They are some of the loudest voices,” Rust said. “I’d say the majority are either supportive or neutral about it.”

Competitive bass angler Cade Laufenberg said he takes the necessary precautions by law to prevent invasive species spreading.

“I do not go through great lengths or above and beyond my call of duty to do such. I do not have time to wash and dry my boat thoroughly after each use when I fish as often as five days per week,” Laufenberg said. “I drain my live wells, remove any weeds from the trailer and boat and wipe down the boat with a water-based solution.”

On Jan. 28, the DNR said in a news release the training course would be “postponed while legislators consider changes to the program.” They also said there were “concerns with the way the law was written.” One concern was boaters traveling through Minnesota but not launching in Minnesota waters, would still need the required training and sticker.

The decals must be obtained through the training course and once received, “must be displayed on the tongue of the trailer near the hitch and does not interfere with any other sticker regulations,” according to the DNR.

If boaters are found without the decal after July 1, they will be ordered by conservation officers to take the training course before continuing to operate or transport watercraft, according to the DNR.

Laufenberg agrees “we should be doing something to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species” and said “the AIS program has good intentions, but the methods used to try and implement this are a burden on the public who use the waterways and bring so much to Minnesota’s economy.”

“Why should boaters be required to pay additional fees on top of the fees we already pay just to continue using the waterways?” Laufenberg said. “I think the law passing will make virtually no difference whatsoever in the number of invasive species.”

Rust said fewer than five percent of Minnesota’s lakes, numbering 12,000 and about 6,500 rivers and streams, are infected with aquatic invasive species and are listed on the infested waters list.

“It’s not as horrific a picture as I think the public perception is,” Rust said. “Not to dismiss it at all, but it’s not like it’s a done deal where every water body is going to be infested with all of these things.”

Education is the main tool the DNR uses to prevent aquatic invasive species from spreading. The basics of the education programs help boaters know about aquatic invasive species and what they should be doing and the basic laws and how to lower the risk of spreading them, Rust said.

“Prevention is definitely the first priority because if you can keep species out, that’s the most cost-effective easiest way to do it,” Rust said. “There’s a whole bunch of methods, out reach and communication, watercraft inspectors, official DNR ones that have pressure wash stations and will do decontaminations on boats for people for free.”

They also use campaigns, grants and volunteer inspectors trained by DNR staff. The inspectors do not have legal authority, but Rust said the DNR has extended their authority to require inspections and have that force of law.

“We can give that authority to county or city or local unit of government and their employees can be trained and have the equivalent of DNR inspector,” Rust said.

Rust said that a new zebra mussel researcher at the University of Minnesota Research Center said “zebra mussels in Minnesota have spread a decade slower than they have in other Great Lakes states.”

“We don’t know if it’s an effect of geography or our programming or what, but it’s been slower here,” Rust said. “That being said, once a water body is infested, eradication is almost impossible.”

Rust said she thought the new training program would contribute to fewer violations at the check stations and collection points. Compliance rates are compared every year and the rates are going down each year, Rust said.

“Last summer it was 16 or 17 percent at our random check stations of violation rates,” Rust said. “When you’re talking about a few people it would take to spread to a different water body, that’s still too high a percentage.”