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DNR ready to battle lake invasives

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The long-awaited warm weather and the Memorial Day holiday will undoubtedly mean the lakes are hoppin’ this weekend.           

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But boaters and fishermen won’t be the only ones out there.

Aquatic invasive species and the people charged with battling the problem will be out in full force — and in larger numbers than before.

“We’ll have quite a few people out there looking for invasive species or plants or water on the boats when they’re at-tempting to enter (the lakes),” said Mike Bolinski, Minnesota DNR watercraft inspection supervisor, who says officials have already been stopping some boats with zebra mussels this year.

There will also be more trained “ambassadors” from local organizations such as lake associations and townships at the lake accesses this year as well, as the county-run program that incorporates DNR training has seen participation double this year.

Joining the program is the Long Lake Betterment Association, as well as lake associations from Floyd and Melissa-Sallie.

Ambassadors from those groups are being trained to man the accesses — they join the already participating Bad Medicine Lake Association, Cormorant Lake Association and the Lake Detroiters.

“There’s two parts to this,” said Steve Skoog, environmental services director for Becker County. “One is to have more eyes and ears on the ground to watch for weeds hanging and things like that, but the other component is education — getting people to do the right thing, in decontaminating their equipment or leaving it out of the water until those suspected things would be dead.”

Skoog says boaters may think they’re safe from spreading zebra mussels if they’re only in the water for the day, but he says the spread can happen when they snag some plants and weeds that do have zebra mussels growing on them.

Although Skoog says the ambassadors are out there to help and educate instead of handing out citations, they do have the option to call authorities if boaters in violation of AIS rules are not cooperative.

Not only will DNR officers respond, but so will the Becker County Sheriff’s Department, which is also ramping up its AIS efforts this year.

“We have added another inspection officer out there,” said Becker County Sheriff Kelly Shannon. “And while naturally they’ll probably spend a lot of time at the busiest lakes, they do cover the whole county, so they’ll be driving around, checking accesses, talking to fishermen and inspecting boats.”

Shannon says while these officers do have full arrest authority, their focus is on education and so far he says they’ve gotten a great response from boaters and anglers.

But while the heat is being slowly turned up in AIS enforcement locally, state lawmakers have just allocated significant funds to help in the fight.

This week Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill that will send $10 million to Minnesota counties to fight the spread of AIS.

Becker County will see $300,000 of that each year, for the next 10 years.

“And I don’t know if there will be some sort of stipulations for that money — if we’re going to have to use that for education or enforcement or actually working on existing problems in infested lakes,” said Skoog, who adds he expects to know more about the new funds shortly.

For more information on which lakes are infested with what and what precautions to dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/locations.

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