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One Minnesota County Is Requiring A New Way Of Inspecting To Fight Aquatic Invasive Species – Should Others Follow?

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David De Lossy

The threat of invasive species in the Land of 10,000 Lakes has been around for many years. One county in the state is stepping up efforts to fight the spread of these unwanted aquatic hitchhikers, which raises the question, should others follow suit?

The Star Tribune reports that Wright County is the first county in the State of Minnesota to push for the mandate to inspect for aquatic invasive species on all boats, trailers, docks, and other equipment that contacts waterways before they go in the water. While the county is placing this mandate for inspections on only four lakes (East and West Sylvia, John, and Pleasant Lakes – via St. Cloud Times), it is one of the most aggressive campaigns in the state to fight the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Other counties, local governments, and lake associations around the state have boat access checkpoints that are staffed by either volunteers, DNR interns, or groups paid by grants that provide inspections before and after water entry. These programs tend to be less formal and have less hours of staffing per week than those on which Wright County is working . According to the St. Cloud Times, this is the first local government to submit a plan under state legislation in 2012 that authorized regional inspection/decontamination programs in Minnesota.

Wright County’s plan is to utilize a single checkpoint location in Annandale, where inspection and/or decontamination will take place. Up to four watercraft would be able to be inspected at once, cutting down on wait times, according to the St. Cloud Times. Once a watercraft is deemed approved, a zip tie would be placed on trailers. Attempt to launch without an approved zip tie would result in a citation. The centralized inspections are an effort to increase cost-effectiveness and efficiency of inspections.  This plan is awaiting DNR approval, which is expected by the end of July, according to FOX 9 Television. Once the inspection program gets going, the site will be staffed from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset every day during the season.

Wright County’s pilot program with the four lakes they are enforcing is one that the Minnesota DNR and other agencies around the country are watching. Minnesota has almost 900,000 registered watercraft and over 3,000 public accesses, which makes it easy to see why covering every access point and every boat is difficult. The way this program is structured, with inspectors at a centralized location, rather than at every access point, is the key point of interest with this program.

According to the St. Louis County website, the county was scheduled to receive $721,320 in 2017 to fund efforts to combat AIS. The county explains on its AIS page that it annually looks for applications to fund AIS projects to prevent the spread of AIS and promote public education regarding invasive species, their impacts, and prevention. The application period for 2017 closed in February.

See the 2017 St. Louis County AIS Prevention Aid Report

St. Louis County’s AIS Prevention Annual Report outlines inspection locations for Pike and Caribou Lakes near Duluth, as well as Burntside Lake and Lake Vermilion. Decontamination sites listed include sites at convenience stores in Cook and Tower to cover the 11 boat landings for Lake Vermilion, as well as a site for Burntside Lake near Ely.

Would centralized inspection locations like the one in Wright County be a good way to increase awareness and prevention regarding the spread of invasive species? Does the idea of having to go to a location other than the boat landing before launching your watercraft seem like a frustrating thing to ask, especially in more rural parts of the state? Share your thoughts on this new program in the poll below.

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