In the Know column: Join Douglas County's fight against lake invaders
This summer the county will have a number of decontamination stations at area lakes. Our permanent station on Lake Le Homme Dieu provides an onsite opportunity to thoroughly rinse and remove aquatic vegetation from boats and trailers.
By Jerry Rapp, Douglas County commissioner
Watching the ice go out on area lakes makes us think of fishing, kayaking, wakeboarding and other fun activities. It also makes officials in the Douglas County Land and Resource Management Office think of new ways to share important information to keep aquatic invasive species from spreading.
As chair of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, I am proud of the work done by all of our departments and feel it’s important for the public to understand how these departments serve the residents and visitors.
Our Land and Resource Management Office is headed by Dave Rush. Justin Swart is the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Coordinator. Together, and with assistance from many others, they coordinate the effort to keep our lakes free of new AIS outbreaks.
This summer the county will have a number of decontamination stations at area lakes. Our permanent station on Lake Le Homme Dieu provides an onsite opportunity to thoroughly rinse and remove aquatic vegetation from boats and trailers. Inspectors, hired by Douglas County, will be at the Krueger’s Creek Landing to assist boaters.
We’ll have three Aqua Weed Stick Landing Stations back in action. These weed sticks can be used to push, pull, hook, and scrape off dangerous vegetation like Eurasian watermilfoil, curly-leaf pondweed and zebra mussels. The self-service weed sticks will be located at Lakes Geneva, Miltona and Mary. There will also be bait disposal containers so anglers can get rid of bait they no longer need. We hope folks will realize the bait disposal containers are not for garbage. We had a bit of confusion on that issue last year.
New this year in the Osakis area will be what’s called a CD3 waterless cleaning system. This is also a self- service unit that includes tools to blow, scrub and grab the aquatic vegetation. This system will be located at the Osakis Boat launch on the south side of the lake.
The county is hiring more than a dozen watercraft inspectors. We are fortunate to have experienced inspectors return each year and we train folks who are new to the position. The county hires what are called Level 1 and Level 2 inspectors. These men and women are strategically located at lakes around the county to answer questions and help educate boaters on how to best remove vegetation before entering the water and after leaving an area lake. Level 2 inspects are trained to actually operate the decontamination unit. We know these inspectors are instrumental in reducing the spread of AIS and we appreciate when boaters work with them to keep the risk low.
Once again, Douglas County will hire a company to survey 15 lakes to look for invasive aquatic plants. This adds to the 30 lakes that have been surveyed over the last two years. The crew conducts a methodical search of each designated lake and uses tools to bring up vegetation on the lake bottom so they can look for zebra mussels, starry stonewort, Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed.
Lake users of all kinds can learn more about why the spread of aquatic invasive species is such a concern by visiting Alexarealakes.org. On that site, viewers will also learn about AIS identification and how they can report a suspected case of AIS. We sure appreciate knowing so we can work with the Department of Natural Resources to check it out.
Each year the county completes an AIS plan. Justin Swart presented the 2021 plan to the county board recently. Not only does it include everything mentioned above, it also includes the county partnering with our neighboring counties to place billboards on Interstate 94 to educate folks who don’t live here full time, a social media campaign with Minnesota Traditions, and a multi-county project that purchased bait bags with messaging on the state’s bait laws — one of which requires people to drain the water from their bait bucket and exchange it with fresh water they provide before leaving the boat access.
Three words continue to dominate our message: Clean, drain and dry.
And those three words are important for all types of watercraft. Whatever goes in the lake must be cleaned, drained, and dried before being used in another body of water. Together, we can stop the spread of aquatic invasive species in Douglas County and the surrounding area.
Jerry Rapp is the chair of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.