Congressman Pete Stauber visits Mille Lacs
U.S. Congressman Pete Stauber (R - District 8) paid Isle a visit last week on Thursday and lent his ear to local input by business owners concerning the Mille Lacs Lake fishery and the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses.
The visit was initially to hear how local small businesses were affected by the COVID-19 shutdown by Gov. Tim Walz, but local business owners also wanted to address the cooperative agreement by the DNR and the eight Chippewa Bands in regards to walleye fishing.
“I want to have a conversation not only about the lake and fishing but the impact of COVID on businesses and what can we do to make sure you’re here for many years,” said Stauber. “About 20% of small businesses may never open their business again. This will be devastating and impact their communities.”
Linda Eno, co-owner of Twin Pines Resort on St. Albans Bay in Garrison, expressed frustrations over the current state of the Mille Lacs walleye fishery. Steve Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Portside in Isle, also expressed frustrations over the co-management of the lake, the changing protocols by the DNR and the 30% margin of error which he said would make a huge impact on the State anglers’ walleye harvest.
Jeff Arnold, owner of Reed’s Family Outdoor Outfitters in Onamia, added, “We are a world class walleye fishing lake, and now the walleye are cannibalizing their own species. Perch have dropped off because they’ve been eaten. The lake is gonna crash.”
Congressman Stauber asked what the recent closure of the lake to walleye fishing did to the businesses. Chapman’s Mille Lacs Resort and Guide Service Co-owner Tina Chapman said, “We went from hundreds of people a day to less than 100.”
The conversation transitioned to the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses. Owner of McQuoid’s Inn Tim Potoczny said, “Stop giving away free money. I would like to have some employees back.”
Congressman Stauber responded, “We knew that small businesses were the engine of our economy, and the plan was to keep the employees on your payroll. But they added on the $600 per week, and now the unintended consequences are that people are making more than they did before.” He added that the extra $600 per week will conclude at the end of the month.
Stauber addressed the CARES Act funding and the Governor’s choosing St. Paul and Minneapolis to receive the majority of the funding. “COVID didn’t discriminate; it hit us all,” said Stauber. “I am a Tenth Amendment supporter and believe in the state’s rights, and the state didn’t come together. There was one decision maker. I trusted the Governors to distribute that (the CARES Act funding), but it’s raining everywhere in Minnesota, not just the Twin Cities.” He added that Minnesota will get $1.44 billion in broadband funding over the next ten years. “There is a rural divide. I appreciate you all being here, and when we can sit and listen to our constituents, we can have better conversations about the future.”
In closing, Congressman Stauber gave a statement to the Messenger stating, “You wouldn’t believe the fight in D.C. to make sure rural America matters. I can tell you there are a bunch of legislators who think we are second fiddle on transportation, but I am an advocate for rural America.”
He added, “The people here have some rational concerns and valid solutions. It’s sad when they (the Minnesota DNR) start to open things up. And with the change in not being able to keep a walleye, the business goes down as well. Isle and Onamia are small communities that rely on the business, and this lake is such a treasure here.”