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Practice good boat stewardship

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Practice good boat stewardship
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Happy Fourth of July weekend!

Now that it's July and the water has finally warmed up, there's a lot of recreation occurring on our lakes. Recreational enjoyment, fishing quality and property value are all tied to lake water quality. In order to protect your water quality, there are certain responsibilities for boat owners using the lakes.

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The area of the lake that is less than 15 feet deep and where sunlight can reach the bottom is usually where you will find the majority of aquatic plants since they need sunlight to grow. These areas are important habitat for fish, shorebirds and aquatic invertebrates because the plants give them refuge from predators and there is abundant food available.

We tend to think of aquatic plants as bad for recreation, but they are very important to organisms living in the lake. When a boat or jet ski speeds through reeds or aquatic plants, it can cause disturbance to these sensitive areas. First, it stirs up the lake sediment, re-suspending nutrients (phosphorus) that are at the lake's bottom.

When these nutrients reach the surface of the water where the algae are, they can feed algae and cause and algal bloom. This stirring can also decrease the water clarity because of additional particles suspended in the water column.

Secondly, props can cause direct damage to aquatic plants, cutting them up and decreasing their use as a shelter for fish. Please avoid driving through reeds and bulrushes with jet skis and boats. Thirdly, props and wave action can disturb sensitive habitat for spawning fish and other organisms.

What you can do is make sure you drive slowly through littoral areas or avoid them entirely. If your dock is in a shallow area, go slowly without a wake out into the deeper part of the lake instead of going full throttle right away.

"Slow no wake" means operation of a watercraft at the slowest possible speed necessary to maintain steerage, but in no case greater than 5 miles per hour.

If you want to see how the July weekends affect water quality, you can take a secchi disk depth reading on Friday afternoon and another reading on Sunday afternoon. You may find that on lakes with a lot of recreation and boat use, the water clarity will decrease temporarily after the weekend.

Being a good lake steward will protect your investment in lakeshore property and water quality for future generations.

Enjoy the lakes!

Moriya Rufer is the Lakes Monitoring Program Coordinator for RMB Environmental Laboratories in Detroit Lakes, 218-846-1465, lakes.rmbel@eot.com.

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