An Echo Press Editorial: Fresh funding in fight against lake threats
Some say that fighting aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels is a battle that can't be won. It's not even worth the effort, they say.
Well, a wave of reinforcements is about to enter the fight that could turn the tide, or at least help contain the threats to our lakes until science can perhaps come up with better solutions.
It comes with a price — but only a small one. Starting July 1, the aquatic invasive species surcharge on three-year watercraft registration is increasing from $5 to $10.60. It's the first increase in the AIS registration surcharges since 1993. Watercraft owners will pay the increased fee when registering new watercraft, or when the registrations on existing watercraft come up for renewal.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the additional charge will significantly enhance aquatic invasive species prevention and management in Minnesota. It should also make a difference in Douglas County, which has 38 named lakes that are infested with zebra mussels or Eurasion milfoil. Another half dozen infested bodies of water in the county don't have a name or are sloughs or swamps.
The county, remember, has hundreds of lakes so the more that can be done to slow or halt other lakes from becoming infested, the better.
The surcharge increase allows the DNR and its partners to manage existing AIS infestations, reduce the spread to new water bodies and help prevent the introduction of new species.
The increased fee will provide an increase of $880,000 per year for the DNR's invasive species program for fiscal years 2020-21. This will allow the DNR to reinstate local AIS management grants, respond to new discoveries and continue to conduct AIS inspections.
The AIS surcharge increase was passed by the Minnesota Legislature as part of this year's omnibus environment and natural resources bill.
"We're grateful to the lake associations, boating groups and many others who supported this long-needed increase," said DNR invasive species unit supervisor Heidi Wolf. "They are a vital part of the important and effective work Minnesotans are doing to prevent the spread of and manage aquatic invasive species."
While the new funding source is coming in, the DNR reminds boaters and anglers to follow Minnesota laws to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species:
• Clean aquatic plants and animals from watercraft.
• Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keep drain plugs out while transporting watercraft.
• Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
Some invasive species are small and difficult to see at the access. To remove or kill them, the DNR advises boat owners to take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another waterbody, especially after leaving infested waters:
• Spray with high-pressure water.
• Rinse with very hot water (120 degrees for at least two minutes or 140 degrees for at least 10 seconds).
• Dry for at least five days.
More details about aquatic invasive species and how to prevent their spread are available at mndnr.gov/ais.