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DNR wants to pull plug on lake threats

Beginning Memorial Day Weekend, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers will join forces with other law enforcement agencies to prevent the transportation of aquatic invasive species from the Brainerd, Lake Mille Lacs and Prior Lake areas.

The DNR wants boaters to "Pull the Plug" on aquatic hitchhikers such as zebra mussels.

The increasing zebra mussel populations at Lake Mille Lacs and Rice Lake near Brainerd, and the new zebra mussel infestation at Prior Lake in Scott County are a particular concern.

Minnesota's water resources are threatened by numerous aquatic invasive species such as the zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and purple loosestrife. These species could be easily spread within the state if citizens, businesses and visitors don't take the necessary steps to contain them.

"Invasive species can be easily transported from one lake to another, so by taking some simple precautions citizens can minimize the risk," said Capt. John Hunt, DNR water resource enforcement manager.

Hunt offered boaters these suggestions:

--Draining bait buckets, bilges and live wells before leaving any water access is a good habit to develop.

--Removing aquatic plants from boats and trailers to prevent the spread of invasive species is required by law.

--Draining all water, including pulling the drain plug, as required by law when leaving waters that have been designated as infested with spiny water flea or zebra mussels.

The coordinated enforcement effort will include an increased presence at public water accesses where officers will look closely for violators who could face fines of up to $500. Officers will also give out informational cards on transporting infested waters to all boaters.

Billboards and newspaper ads are being used in the Mille Lacs and Brainerd areas to encourage boaters to "Pull the Plug" on aquatic hitchhikers.

DNR watercraft inspectors and creel census clerks will also be checking boats and informing boaters to inspect, remove and drain before leaving water accesses. Informational materials have also been provided to Mille Lacs area businesses.

Tribal authorities, Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, Minnesota State Patrol and local sheriffs' departments will assist conservation officers in this effort.