Mille Lacs resort gets bailout for walleye ‘disaster’

Here’s an idea that probably won’t catch on at the Minnesota Legislature: If you’re going to use taxpayer funds to bail out a single resort on Lake Mille Lacs, how about naming it?

The Star Tribune reports today that Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, tucked this nugget — a claim against the state — into a bill to spur economic development:

“small resort businesses located in the city of Isle with less than $350,000 in annual revenue, at least four rental units, which are open during both summer and winter months, and whose business was adversely impacted by a decline in walleye fishing on Lake Mille Lacs.”

It’s a $150,000 taxpayer gift to Hunter Winfield’s Resort, which Peterson said has been adversely affected by the Department of Natural Resources limits on walleye in the lake. So have other resorts, but they didn’t get the cash.

“If the issue is that one business suffered a loss because of fishing restrictions on Mille Lacs that were intended to restore the walleye population, there are probably 1,000 businesses on Mille Lacs alone that could make a similar argument,” Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner, told the Star Tribune, saying it sets a bad precedent to reimburse just about any business for the impact of the state’s policy decisions.

“We sincerely appreciate the senators and representatives who thoughtfully listened to and heard our concerns,” Margie Christensen of Hunter Winfield’s told the paper.

Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron, said taxpayers have a responsibility to the resort because the DNR didn’t warn resorters of the possibility of the collapse of the walleye in the lake.

Maybe, but in 2015, when the DNR warned resorters that restrictions on Walleye’s walleyes were coming, Hunter Winfield’s owners were quoted in a Star Tribune story that seemed to suggest resorters thought there was little need .

“We have a world-class smallmouth bass fishery,’’ said Mike Christensen, who, with his wife, Margie, owns Hunter Winfield’s Resort. “Yeah, the walleyes are down, but where else can you catch 24- to 27-inch fish on a consistent basis?’’

Said Margie Christensen: “We have a lot of people who just want to catch fish.’’

But lawmakers suggest that the payout isn’t any different than when the Legislature helps individuals who are impacted by natural disasters.

Why did only one resort get the money? Only one resort made a claim.

  • joetron2030

    Something smells… fishy about this whole thing.

  • Al

    Well, that’s not shady AT ALL.

  • Postal Customer

    Just for fun let’s set aside the whole redistribution of wealth hypocrisy here.

    Why bail out the resort? Why not the fisherman? You don’t need a resort to catch fish. And maybe non-fishermen stayed at the resort. The bailout should go to the people who weren’t allowed to catch fish.

    Or perhaps there should be no bailout.

    • MikeB

      Small government for thee, but not for me

  • Michael Burr

    Grammar Nazi mode ON:

    *walleyes* not *Walleye’s*
    (“DNR warned resorters that restrictions on Walleye’s were coming”)

  • Badboy35

    Maybe only 1 resort made a claim because it was intended that only they met the qualifications. Outrageous.

  • kennedy

    “Only one resort made the claim.”

    Not for long, I suspect, after this news.

    I’m surprised this didn’t come up a while back when wake restrictions on Minnetonka cut boating traffic, and negatively impacted revenue for lake bars. Seems like someone in that area would have access to sharp, litigious legal counsel.

  • Jack

    I had a income tax professor (the late Sam Erickson) who made a point of telling us exactly who was benefiting from similar types of provisions. I fondly remember Senator Bob Dole’s (R – Kansas) provision for Ruan Trucking.

    Us tax geeks can always figure whose lobbyist got the language put in the bills.

  • Guest

    THIS is hwy the MN Constitution wanted one item per bill. Let each bill stand on its own.

  • Mark

    The process this resort followed is one made available to all Minnesotans. Visit the state legislature website or search for Joint House – Senate Subcommittee On Claims. This was not a hand out it was a claim with well documented damages. Those commenting are not realizing that Mille Lacs has a ton of walleye and anglers should have been able to keep fish this year. Due to co-management of the lake, that didn’t happen. The lake is managed politically not biologically. Everyone should be mad that taxpayer dollars went to help the resort who use the claims process which is available to all Minnesotans but the anger is misdirected, this should have been paid by the DNR. The DNR has the power to stand up and say the way the lake is managed is not working but they won’t for fear of losing their jobs. DNR officials have admitted that the lake is run politically not biologically. Make no mistake, there are fish here. The claim this resort made was found valid by both democrats and republicans that sit on the claims committee. The resort named took the long path of the claims process because they realize the way the DNR has chosen to manage the lake is wrong. All citizens should be allowed the right to try to catch and keep a walleye, it should not be limited to one sovereign entity.

  • Jim Wallace

    no shock with MN government.