If you plan on wetting a line in Minnesota any time soon, you’d better buy that fishing license by Thursday.
If Minnesota government shuts down Friday, the Department of Natural Resources computer system will shut down with it, making it impossible to buy a fishing license. Same goes for boat and ATV licenses.
The impact may hit hardest in the tourism industry, where vacationing anglers unaware of the situation may find themselves unable to fish legally. State parks and state forest campgrounds also will shut down, leaving some big holes in the Northland’s traditional summer offerings for visitors who don’t plan ahead.
“I’m just sending out a mass e-mail to all our reservations,” said Bill Hansen of Sawbill Canoe Outfitters near Tofte. “And we’ve posted something on our website. We’re telling them to get their fishing license now online.”
Kim Wagner of Hi-Banks Resort on Fish Lake north of Duluth said a couple of customers called to cancel their upcoming stays because they wouldn’t be able to buy fishing licenses.
“We recommended they go online to get their licenses,” Wagner said. “We didn’t lose them. … But it (the possible shutdown) is ridiculous. Just because the state can’t get their act together, we have to suffer.”
Don’t chance fishing without a license, however: The only part of the DNR that will remain open and active are law enforcement conservation officers.
Here are other effects if no budget agreement is reached: Nonprofits. Some Duluth-area nonprofits could be hit hard, with the shutoff of state money and state-administered grants. Little Treasures Center would lose 70 percent of its funding, which could leave 14 children from nine families without child care. Without child care, several families might not be able to work. The Safe Haven Shelter for victims of domestic abuse and their families in Duluth is counting on a court decision that deems state funding for shelters an essential service. Without that designation, the shelter would have to close. Community Action Duluth expects to lay off two employees Friday that are paid for with state money. The program has a line of credit to help weather a short shutdown but could run out of money to pay its rent. On the road: State Patrol officers will still be watching for speeders. State rest areas will be closed. Some road construction will continue, such as city and county projects. But some big projects will shut down, including the Interstate 35 reconstruction in Duluth and the Highway 61 project near Split Rock on the North Shore.
“We don’t know how long this might last, so we’re doing some temporary paving over gravel surfaces in those areas. … But the crews will come off on Thursday” unless a settlement is reached, said Beth Petrowske, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Duluth.
Detours will remain in place. The shutdown could push the project’s completion later into autumn or delay final work until next spring, she said. Other projects, such as bridge construction on Highway 73 in Floodwood, simply won’t start until the shutdown is resolved. Drivers license renewals, motor vehicle licenses, passports: All still available through county deputy registrar’s offices, including the St. Louis County license center at the Miller Hill Mall. That’s because most state vehicle licenses are on the same state computer system as the State Patrol, which will remain on duty.
“We should be able to do most license requests if they don’t require some sort of complicated title search or something where we would need state (employee) assistance,” said Don Dicklich, St. Louis County auditor. Courts and prisons: Will operate as usual, unless the court deems them not critical. Real estate records: Feel free to close on that new home because those transactions will be available “unless something goes wrong with the state computer system … because they may not have the staff available to fix it,” said County Recorder Mark Monacelli. Birth, death certificates: Access remains unclear, Monacelli said. Gov. Mark Dayton has asked for a court ruling designating them as a critical service; if that doesn’t happen, the state system could shut down. Marriage licenses: Still available through the County Recorders offices. Food and health: The Minnesota Department of Health expects to be down to just 189 of its 1,450 employees but plans to continue investigating and responding on a limited basis to disease outbreaks, investigating complaints in health-care
facilities; sampling public water supply systems; screening newborns for hearing and genetic disorders and investigating and responding to disease outbreaks. Regular annual inspections of health care facilities will stop, but the state will respond to reports of problems at nursing homes. National Guard: Dayton has asked the court to proclaim nearly all Minnesota National Guard functions as critical to keep the state employees on the job. If the judges agree, there would be virtually no changes in operations at Duluth’s 148th Fighter Wing base or other major military installations in the state, said Maj. Kristen Auge, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs. National Guard training also would continue. All deployed troops are considered federal employees and are not affected. Loggers who want to cut trees on state forests are out of luck. The DNR’s division of forestry is expected to end all timber sales on state lands. That will put some loggers and truck drivers out of work and will cost the state nearly $229,000 in lost revenues from selling trees to cut and another $655,000 in state and local taxes, according to Minnesota Forest Industries. The group also estimates that about 66 wood-products jobs would be lost in the first week of a shutdown alone because of the loss of access to state forests. The Minnesota State Lottery will shut down. Schools: Money for K-12 schools will stop flowing to districts, which would then have to use reserve funds to keep summer activities open. Schools are supposed to get nearly $300 million in state payments at mid-July that wouldn’t come on time if the state shuts down. If the shutdown continued, the district would use money from its reserves to open in the fall. Veterans: The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs would keep veterans homes open, including Silver Bay, along with critical assistance programs and the state Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls — if the courts agree those are critical services. Tuition reimbursement claims would be scaled back and state veterans outreach offices would close. The state’s veterans hot line would remain open. St. Louis and other counties won’t get some of their reimbursement payments for services the county provides. That could cost St. Louis County $5 million to $10 million if the shutdown lasts through July, at least in the short run. Kevin Gray, county administrator, said the county has ample reserves on hand to cover any cash-flow shortage into the summer. Duluth city staffing and employment help: Layoff notices were sent out Thursday to 16 people employed in Duluth’s Work Force Development and Training Department. Local workers wouldn’t be affected until July 8, because of notice requirements in their union contracts. Funding for local work force development operations flows through the city but comes from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the federal government. More than 700 people are currently enrolled in Duluth work force programs. Hundreds of others who use computers at the Job Center on West Second Street to search for work also would be out of luck.
Duluth is in line for a $15 million state aid payment in July that also is in limbo. City officials said last week they could cover the loss for a short time with reserves.
News Tribune outdoors writer Sam Cook contributed to this report.
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