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State Shutdown Would Freeze DNR, Close State Parks

The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District should escape most effects of a shutdown.

A shutdown of state government would suspend virtually all services and divisions within Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources. 

All 74 state parks, recreational areas and campgrounds, visited by millions of people every year, will close.

Conservation and enforcement operations will also cease, and ecological monitoring will come to a halt—which could have a profound impact on Lake Minnetonka. Zebra mussels were discovered in Lake Minnetonka last summer, and the DNR has made quelling their spread a top priority. 

DNR officials had scheduled the most invasive species inspections in state history for this summer, as part of that effort. The State Legislature recently approved increasing the DNR’s inspections authority and added teeth to current enforcement measures. 

But none of this would happen if a government shutdown does. 

“We can’t really implement that until we get our new budget,” Steve Hirsch, director of the DNR’s Division of Ecological and Water Resources Division, said. “If it was a short duration the impacts would be relatively minimal [but] if it’s a longer duration I think we would start to become concerned.”

Meanwhile, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District should escape most effects of a state government shutdown. The district encompasses 181 square miles that include Minnetonka, Minnehaha Creek, the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes and Minnehaha Falls.

“We will stay open and conduct business as usual,” watershed district spokeswoman Telly Mamayek said by email. “Some grant-related activities also could be affected, but the district doesn’t have any major programs that depend on state grants in 2010 and 2011.” 

The Department of Natural Resources shutdown wouldn't have a rollover impact on the district either, she said. A shutdown would slow projects that need state approval, but effects should be minimal in the short term because most of the district’s current projects are still in the design phase, while most capital improvement projects happen in the winter.

Regulatory action would also be delayed if there is a wetland violation requiring state involvement.

“While the MCWD is concerned about the effect of a shutdown on the District’s residents, it will not have a direct impact on the MCWD’s operations,” Mamayek wrote. 

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