Otter Tail County forming task force to stop zebra musselsOtter Tail County commissioners, at their December 20 meeting, unanimously agreed to work in partnership with public and private agencies, volunteer organizations and individuals to reduce the threat to Otter Tail County lakes and rivers caused by aquatic invasive species.
Fergus Falls, MN – Otter Tail County commissioners, at their December 20 meeting, unanimously agreed to work in partnership with public and private agencies, volunteer organizations and individuals to reduce the threat to Otter Tail County lakes and rivers caused by aquatic invasive species.
The commissioners recently appointed Otter Tail County Land and Resource Director Bill Kalar to Chair their newly formed AIS Task Force. Kalar was asked to provide to them at their January 3rd meeting a list of potential task force committee members and suggestions on how the task force should be structured.
“Controlling the spread of invasives, such as zebra mussels, that are already present in Otter Tail County,” said Kalar afterwards, “and preventing the introduction of new invasives is something that we all need to take responsibility for and I applaud the Otter Tail County commissioners for providing much needed leadership.” He adds: this is everybody’s responsibility, not those that just live on the lakes. Resorts and businesses depend on people recreating and using county lakes. It is a critical economic component of Otter Tail County.
Otter Tail County lakes are already seeing the impacts of zebra mussels. Zebra mussels cling to docks, lifts, and water related equipment and they can cause boat motors to overheat. Irrigation intake systems that draw water from lakes need to be protected to prevent them from becoming clogged by the mussels and the mere threat of their presence will cause life in and on Otter Tail County lakes to change.
When invasive non-native species are introduced into lakes and rivers the economy and the entire eco-systems are altered. The town of Monroe, Michigan, had no tap water for three days in 1989 after zebra mussels overran the municipal intakes.
While zebra mussels filter the lake water and make it clearer - they also deplete the food available for native fish like walleye, sunfish and bass. When the water is filtered and becomes clearer - the sunlight reaches deeper water and more plant growth appears which in turn alters the spawning areas available for native fish. Consequently, native fish populations eventually become impacted without adequate food sources.
Jeff Stabnow, the President of the Otter Tail County Coalition of Lake Associations (OTC COLA) announced today his full support for Otter Tail County’s formation of an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Task Force.
The reality is that the worst is yet to come.
“Some people wonder what all the fuss is about,” said Stabnow, “but the reality is that the worst is yet to come.”
In 2009, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that they found the more destructive cousin to the zebra mussel in the Duluth-Superior Harbor. First seen in the Great Lakes in 1989, quagga mussels are hardier and can live at greater depths and in colder climates than zebra mussels. Quagga mussels are also present in the Mississippi and Lake Pepin in Minnesota.
Among other unwanted invaders, already present in Minnesota but not in Otter Tail County, are Eurasian Water Milfoil, round goby and spiny water flea to name a few.
Under current state law, it is unlawful to transport aquatic plants, zebra mussels and other prohibited species of animals on a public road, and/or place or attempt to place into waters of the state a boat, seaplane, or equipment that has aquatic plants, zebra mussels, or other prohibited invasive species attached.
Cleaning and disinfecting water related equipment will also prevent the spread of fish diseases, such as Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS). VHS has reached epidemic proportions in the Great Lakes and threatens the sport-fishing industry.
Stabnow encourages watercraft operators to know where infested waters are and remind users of public waters to take precautions when moving any watercraft, dock, boat lift or any water related equipment from lake to lake. “We simply have to take more steps to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. It has changed the way we use our lakes - forever. Protecting our lakes is very important to the future of Otter Tail County. It is everybody’s responsibility.”
For more information on Otter Tail County’s AIS Task Force and appointments, contact Land & Resource Director Bill Kalar or an Otter Tail County Commissioner. (Website: http://www.co.otter-tail.mn.us/)
Stabnow also encourages the public to attend the 2012 Aquatic Invasive Species Legislative Summit that will be held from 9 am to noon at the Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Detroit Lakes on January 14th. It is open to the public at no charge and provides an opportunity for citizens to interact with their legislators. Doors to M-State open at 8 am and attendees are welcome to come early and visit over a free continental breakfast and view the exhibits.
The Summit is co-sponsored by many regional organizations including the Becker, Otter Tail, Douglas and Hubbard County Coalitions of Lake Associations.
“The Aquatic Invasive Species Legislative Summit held in Detroit Lakes last January was a key launching point for the legislation passed in 2011,” Minnesota COLA Collaborative and a Becker County COLA Officer Barb Halbakken-Fischburg said in a press release announcing the summit. The concerns expressed by Minnesotans to the legislators were heard all the way to the Capitol. In 2012, the legislators will be asked to focus on how the DNR can take more aggressive action with specific statewide programs and deadlines before it is too late to protect our state’s greatest asset – the lakes.” She adds: Our County governments have been forced to put together AIS programs and our Governor and Legislators need to understand the urgency of an effective AIS statewide program that addresses all invasives.