Don't expect to see dock cops come summer. But new dock specs still could mean trouble for owners of some dock platforms across Minnesota - and primarily in the Brainerd lakes area.
On Wednesday afternoon, the DNR released its 2008 dock platform general permit. The highly anticipated permit was derived from a recommendation dated Nov. 28 by the DNR Docks Advisory Committee.
As was recommended by the committee, the permit says a platform cannot exceed more than 120 square feet - or 170 square feet including the walkway, which can be no more than 5 feet wide. The permit goes into effect immediately.
"They'll have to trim it down," Tom Hovey, DNR Waters Division, said of dock owners' options for nonconforming platforms. "But they (platforms) are mostly made of individual sections anyway."
Owners of nonconforming platforms also can apply for a special permit to retain their platforms, which run $150 to $1,000, depending on platform size. But owners need to have a good reason for such, and in a previous interview Hovey said, "I don't know of any good reasons."
According to Roger Landers of Norlake Dock Service in Nisswa, one of nearly two dozen members of the Docks Advisory Committee, most of the nonconforming platforms in the state were found in the Brainerd lakes area - namely Gull Lake and the Whitefish Chain - and on Lake Minnetonka.
"I think it's a fair compromise from a dock installers' standpoint," Landers said of the new platform specs.
In the past, those numbers weren't as specific, he said. "That (the addition of the walkway in the specs) is the difference this year."
But, Landers wondered, how will the DNR police dock platform size?
"One of the real concerns for COs (conservation officers) is that, when they go on a lake, they're doing everything - (checking on) fishing, boating, jet skis, the whole ball of wax. They can see if they're near a dock with a large platform. Now they have to go over there and write a citation? First the CO has to figure out if the owner is at home. But how long do you spend seeing if the homeowner is around. That's one of the real problems they have. How do you write a citation when no one is around?"
Hovey didn't specifically say how enforcement would be handled, but said, "We'll try to be consistent and fair. There was a loud call for some consistent enforcement. We know the (conservation) officers are on board. But I suspect they won't be out looking at them (platforms) with tape measures. All of a sudden there won't be dock cops out there. I don't think that's the case. But if it's illegal ..."
Landers expects the permit to be the buzz of the Minneapolis Boat Show, which opened Wednesday and runs through Sunday at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
"I'm sure it will be," Landers said. "But I'm not sure anyone will buy any (docks or platforms)."
Also, in a move Landers said wasn't discussed in much detail by the advisory committee, the DNR allowed Wednesday for an aquatic impact area. In a letter Wednesday announcing the dock platform general permit, Kent Lokkesmoe, DNR Waters Division director, said "All structures and shoreline modifications (including docks, platforms, boat lifts, canopies, sand blankets and aquatic plant removal) should be completely contained in an aquatic impact area. This is defined for this general permit as an area up to 50 feet wide along the shoreline or one-half the width of the lot, whichever is less, and extends waterward to a 4-foot water depth."
"We were concerned that it was thought that we were not looking at the big picture," Hovey said. "People would say, 'Why are you concerned with platforms when my neighbor has three boat lifts, a canopy and all these boats.' The impact all that will have will be contained in an aquatic impact area.
"It takes into account how much property you own. It also takes into account lake classifications. Some lakes are more appropriate for these kinds of things. And the more sensitive ones, they're no good on."
The general permit is good for five years, expiring Nov. 30, 2012, "or when new regulations regarding structures in public waters take effect," Lokkesmoe said in the letter.
To see the letter and permit in their entirety via a PDF file, go to the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us, click on "Public input" just below the Main Categories section, scroll down under "Issues" to "Issues Related to Docks" (hit "go") and click on the "2008 Dock Platform General Permit" file.
BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5864.
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