Double trouble for those spreading milfoil, zebrasIf you’re careless about spreading aquatic invasive species (AIS) such as zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil, you’ll face double the consequences.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
If you’re careless about spreading aquatic invasive species (AIS) such as zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil, you’ll face double the consequences.
Civil fines for people caught violating the state’s aquatic invasive species (AIS) laws are now double, thanks to new, tougher laws that took effect July 1, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The stiffer penalties come at an opportune time in the Alexandria area.
Eurasian watermilfoil, an AIS, was discovered on Lake L’Homme Dieu last week (as reported in a front page story in Wednesday’s Echo Press).
The milfoil was spotted by Kyle Kirkeby of Ortonville, who recognized the noxious plant from fishing ventures on lakes Oscar and Minnewaska, according to the DNR. Kirkeby was able to identify the milfoil because of its red tint.
Nathan Olson, DNR invasive species specialist, pointed out that this was a good example of how public outreach and education can bring the DNR and citizens together to help prevent the spread of invasive species.
The area containing the milfoil is about the size of a car and is located straight out from the L’Homme Dieu-Carlos bridge, several hundred feet from shore in eight to nine feet of water, according to the Lake L’Homme Dieu Association, which is closely monitoring the situation and working with the DNR to contain the milfoil.
The DNR told the lake association that it decided not to spray because the chemical can take several weeks to be effective.
Instead, the DNR decided on a more direct and speedier strategy. With the help of two Bosek brothers and scuba equipment, the DNR mechanically harvested the plant last Friday.
“We hope our efforts will prevent Eurasian watermilfoil from widely establishing in the lake,” said Olson. “Thankfully, we were able to respond quickly to deal with the problem.”
The process took about five hours. Divers manually pulled the plants from the area, clump by clump, using a seine net to surround the patch in an attempt to contain the milfoil fragments and prevent them from spreading.
A large portion of the lake was surveyed with three boats to see if any more areas were infested and no milfoil was found.
Nevertheless, it is likely that there are other Eurasian watermilfoil plants elsewhere in the lake, based on past experience, Olson said.
Another piece of sobering news: When the milfoil plants were pulled up to the surface, they contained large amounts of another AIS – zebra mussels.
“It appears we will not be running short of major issues to deal with,” said Dennis Miller, lake association president.
The infested area will be closely monitored in the upcoming weeks as well as other areas of the lake.
AIS LAWS STIFFEN
Minnesota law prohibits the possession or transport of any AIS in the state. AIS include zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas.
Boaters, however, don’t seem to be getting the message. Last month, DNR officials reported that the AIS violation rate among Minnesota boaters and anglers is at an “unacceptable” rate of 20 percent.
“The larger fines should help people realize that this is a serious problem, and we need everyone to do their part to prevent the spread of AIS,” said Major Phil Meier, DNR enforcement operations manager. For example, failure to remove a drain plug while transporting a watercraft will mean a $100 fine, instead of a $50 penalty. The fine for unlawfully possessing and transporting prohibited AIS will increase from $250 to $500.
Other new AIS laws that took effect July 1 include:
•Boat lifts, docks, swim rafts and other water-related equipment (except boats and other watercraft) that are removed from any water body may not be placed in another water body for at least 21 days. The drying out period is designed to kill any AIS that might be attached to the equipment that are high risk and difficult to clean. (Two zebra mussel introductions occurred last year as a result of water equipment being sold and moved from one water body to another).
•Boat clubs, yacht clubs, marinas and other similar organizations are now considered lake-service providers, requiring permits for the clubs and staff working there. That means they must go through AIS certification training.
To help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, boaters and anglers are required by law to:
•?Clean aquatic plants and animals off boats, trailers and equipment.
•Drain bait buckets, bilges and live wells before leaving any water access.
•Keep drain plugs out while transporting water-related equipment.
More information, including a new 25-minute video called “Aquatic Invasive Species, Minnesota Waters at Risk,” is available at www.mndnr.gov/invasives.