Bad news for weeds. A judge's ruling has restored funding for controlling invasive aquatic vegetation in public lakes.
Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin issued two rulings on the matter today.
First, she said a company, Midwest Weed Harvesting, should get paid for services to "manage and control aquatic vegetation through the use of mechanical lawn weed harvesting for the purpose of maintaining and preserving public property."
And then she approved funding for several other companies "to manage and control invasive and exotic (non-native) aquatic vegetation, swimmers' itch parasites, and algae through the use of EPA-approved herbicides and algaecides for the purpose of maintaining and preserving public property."
In other shutdown news:
Judge Gearin denied funding for the Minnesota Community Action grant. The money provides help for low-income families.
She also denied a licensing request from Halfway Jam, an annual music festival in Royalton, Minn. The festival was supposed to start Wednesday, but it can't get a camping license due to the shutdown.
Over Independence Day weekend, Renecker was fishing with his brother Rusty on Big Cormorant Lake when he caught a huge rock bass - what he believes is a record-busting fish.
"I think I have the world record frozen in a 5 gallon bucket in my freezer," Renecker wrote MPR this week.
Trouble is, he can't make it official until after the government shutdown ends. That's because Department of Natural Resources officials in charge of certifying his catch have been laid off.
I caught up with Renecker over the phone to hear more about his fish. He told me that the beast is about 19 inches long and he thinks it weighs in the range of 4 pounds; most rock bass are less than 10 inches long, and the state record is a mere 2 pounds.
(That's Travis in the picture holding up his big fish. The quality isn't great because the pictures were taken with his brother's cell phone.)
Renecker may have also broken national and world records as well, according to the International Game Fish Association. Herbert Ratner Jr. caught a 3 pound rock bass in Lake Erie, PA back in 1998, and Peter Gulgin caught a 3 pounder in Ontario, Canada in 1974.
John Store, owner of Quality Bait and Tackle in Detroit Lakes, MN, said that if Renecker's measurements are correct, "he's got a big one."
Until the government shutdown is over and he can get it registered with the DNR, Renecker is storing the specimen in his freezer.
And if the fish turns out not to be the winner he hopes it is, Renecker's got another plan: smoke it and eat it.
Vandals ran amok over the weekend at unattended state parks.
Afton State Park sustained the most damage from vandals over the weekend. Law enforcement scoured the park, just east of the Twin Cities along the St. Croix River, and took 12 people into custody after a burglary and vandalism spree.
MPR's Madeleine Baran reports that Sheriff Bill Hutton said a group of vandals broke into the on Sunday night and caused about $35,000 in damages to park buildings, including burning one of the cabins and partially removing the roof.
Hutton said the damage was among the worst he's seen.
"It's not common at all," he said. "I would suspect or highly suspect that this would've not occurred if the park would've been open because they would've had personnel there."
The Star Tribune reports that more of this behavior is expected as the shutdown drags on.
"This is just exactly the type of thing we're going to be seeing repeatedly as the shutdown goes forward," said Steve Morse, former lawmaker and DNR deputy commissioner who is now executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. "It shows once again how difficult it is to extricate the state from our lives, and the problems that are going to come to light once something like this happens."
The paper also notes that vandalism wasn't limited to parks near the Twin Cities.
"Someone took spray paint and added a body part to the Smokey Bear sign" at the DNR area office in Grand Marais, Konrad said.
"It's sad," he said. "[But] when you tell people that there will be no one around, they will take advantage [of the shutdown]. ... This is going to cost the taxpayers money to fix."
Most of the people who entered parks over the weekend did so with the intention to enjoy the public space just as they would any other day. The Duluth News Tribune reports that you'd be hard-pressed to find a sign of the shutdown at the pool below the falls on the Goose Berry River.
Tales of personal struggle emerge
"In day six, the reality of shutdown settles in" -- the St Cloud Times reports on the challenges facing one of the many state workers who are out of a job.
Bob Pogatchnik has spent 25 years in the workforce. Now, Minnesota's state-government shutdown puts him in an unfamiliar place: the unemployment line.
How much longer can it last?
MN Daily is reporting the shutdown could last weeks, or longer.
Larry Jacobs, a professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said if the two parties can't reach a budget agreement within the week, the shutdown may stretch into August or further.
Passing the shutdown deadline may take some heat off the legislators -- to the detriment of negotiations, said David Schultz, a professor of public policy at Hamline University.
"A lot of the fear is gone now that we're actually in the shutdown," he said. "[The shutdown] doesn't, in and of itself, provide the political incentive to reach agreement."
Meanwhile former Gov. Tim Pawlenty attacked the bi-partisan efforts to reach a compromise and applauded state GOP leaders for "sticking to their guns" reports the Daily Caller.
The Minnesota Zoo has gone #mnshutdown-silent.
Due to state gov shutdown, we are suspending tweets until the shutdown is over. We hope to resume soon! http://t.co/YIh204n
O, what hath the shutdown wrought?
Big lineup of talkers on the #mnshutdown on MPR News today. Here's a preview of the next few hours (subject to change):
-At 7:20 on Morning Edition, we expect to hear from a top GOP leader, either Amy Koch or Kurt Zellers
-At 7:30 we'll hear from the director of the Minnesota Zoo
-MPR News political editor Mike Mulcahy at 7:40, followed by another reporter, either Catherine Richert or Brandt Williams
-At 8:00 we will be recording an interview with a state employee laid off from her job in the Revenue Department for airing later during the hour
-Also during the 8:00 hour we expect a preview of the special master hearings from reporter Laura Yuen, and we'll hear about effects of the shutdown from reporter Dan Olson
-On Midmorning starting at 9, we'll hear from reporters Tim Pugmire, Catherine Richert, Hennepin County board commissioner Mike Opat, Duluth Mayor Don Ness, St, Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk and former state representative Marty Seifert.
-Then on Midday, starting at 11: former Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock, reporters Mulachy, Yuen and Olson, and House Minority Leader Thissen. Midday has also invited Governor Dayton and GOP legislative leaders to appear on the show.
Itasca State Park is an awesome place and draws millions of visitors from around the world for the chance to wade or walk across the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
But right now it's nearly empty as campers and visitors clear out with fewer than seven hours to go before state government, including the state's 66 parks, shuts down.
MPR News reporter Tom Robertson writes:
Preparations for a government shutdown have become very obvious this afternoon at the state's 66 parks.
DNR workers are asking people to pack up and leave the campgrounds. Tom Robertson reports from Itasca State Park that the park is already nearly empty. Most of the campers have left, many before the park staff told them to.
Normally there are about 7,000 in the park on a weekend.
Day visitors will be allowed in to use the trails but asked to leave at night. Today, the shops and visitors center will close at their usual times at 8 p.m.
In the event of a shutdown, tomorrow, 150 employees at Itasca State park won't have jobs. Statewide, the DNR park staff will shrink from 3,000 workers to 220. Most of those will be conservation officers who will be the primary eyes on the parks and keep people from staying overnight.
From MPR News reporter Jess Mador:
Minnesota Zoo officials are hoping to keep the zoo open despite a state government shutdown.
Zoo officials said they have enough revenue to operate for at least two months without any additional state funding. Zoo director Lee Ehmke wants to make this argument before a special master appointed by the court.
Ehmke said more than 70 percent of the zoo's $21 million budget comes from earned revenue and contributions.
"We want everyone to know that regardless of any of the outcomes here the animals in our care will continue to be cared for at very high levels and the site that we will hopefully be inviting lots of people back to soon will be cared for and kept in great condition so people don't need to worry about the animals at the zoo," said Ehmke.
The zoo filed a lawsuit seeking to remain open during a shutdown, said Ehmke.
The Minnesota Zoo has answers to Frequently Asked Questions about effect on the zoo of a possible government shutdown. Here's a link.
From a DNR press release:
"The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will begin taking steps to close its state park facilities in the event legislators and the governor are unable to reach a budget agreement. Without a deal, state park campgrounds will be closing at 4 p.m. today."
Minnesotans already facing the prospect of no camping in state parks during a government shutdown may confront another obstacle to outdoor fun -- no boating on scores of Minnesota lakes.
Six groups want Gov. Mark Dayton to close public access at every lake in Minnesota that contains an "aquatic invasive species."
That's a lot of lakes across Minnesota, including Leach Lake, Lake Mille Lacs and Lake Minnetonka.
"With the DNR's plan to close state parks, it remains essential to protect Minnesota waters from zebra mussels, Eurasian Water milfoil, quagga mussels and others as identified by the DNR's infested waters list of May 2," the groups argued in a letter today to Dayton.
"The DNR must act to prevent further spread of all aquatic invasive species during a time when watercraft inspectors are deemed non-essential."
"Imagine all the boat traffic going in and out of lakes infested with zebra mussels or Eurasian Watermilfoil during the long holiday weekend," Dick Hecock, president of Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations, said in a prepared statement.
"Tubing one day on infested waters outside of Becker County then coming to Detroit Lakes to watch the fireworks -- all without any kind of inspection or decontamination. This weekend alone has the potential to spread these invasive species like wildfire across the state."
The groups urging Dayton to close lakes are: Minnesota Waters; Minnesota Seasonal & Recreational Property Owners Association; Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations Collaborative; Pelican River Watershed District; Minnesota Division, Izaak Walton League Association; Minnehaha Creek Watershed District .
Talks are continuing this afternoon between Dayton and Republican lawmakers to make a deal on the budget and avoid a Friday shutdown.
A possible state shutdown July 1 couldn't come at a worse time for people with reservations to camp at a Minnesota state park for July 4. But don't cancel the reservations yet.
That's the guidance from the state DNR. The agency's posted answers to a bunch of frequently asked questions. Here are the biggies:
1.) DNR is telling people to keep their camp site reservation since there's still time for a compromise to be reached, and they're still accepting reservations beyond July.
2.) If you cancel a reservation between June 27 (Monday) and June 30 (Wednesday), the state will waive cancellation penalties for reservations that include a night between June 30 and July 14. If you cancel before June 27, you'll pay the standard cancellation penalty.
3.) If a shutdown occurs, expect state parks to close at 4 p.m. on June 30, unless the courts say otherwise. Park ground will be posted closed and buildings, restrooms and other facilities will be locked.
MPR News reporter Stephanie Hemphill says more than 3,000 campsites are reserved at state parks and some families are making other arrangements; others are just frustrated.
Private campgrounds could see a rush of campers with no place to pitch a tent on one of the busiest weekends of the summer.
If you do cancel a reservation and you're eligible for a refund, be patient. The shutdown will stop a lot of stuff, including the processing and mailing of refunds.
6/24 UPDATE: Listen to Hemphill's story
We need you
Help us keep watch on the Minnesota government shutdown. Tell us what you're seeing. Share an insight or story and make us smarter on how the shutdown is affecting Minnesota.
Looking for shutdown stories from all around Minnesota? Find all you need on MPR's Minnesota Today page.