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Don't lake hop: Campaign aims to stop spread of aquatic invasive species

There's a battle going on in Minnesota lakes and rivers this summer, to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels, flowering rush, spiny waterfleas and Eurasian watermilfoil.

Several Detroit Lakes-based agencies have joined forces with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the University of Minnesota's Central Region Sustainable Development Partnership to launch a statewide prevention campaign.

RMB Environmental Laboratories, Natural Innovations and the Pelican River Watershed District have worked together to produce a series of 11 public service announcements to educate residents and visitors on easy steps they can take to prevent the spread of AIS.

"The videos focus on zebra mussels, flowering rush, spiny waterfleas, and Eurasian watermilfoil -- everything from how they choke our lakes to how they affect fishing and recreation, how zebra mussel shells cut people's feet and the (current AIS) laws," said Erika Johnson of Natural Innovations.

"Each one also focuses on how you can do your part to clean, drain and dry (boats and personal watercraft) when visiting Minnesota lakes and rivers, to help stop the spread of AIS," she added.

The PSA's were funded by the DNR, CRSDP, Detroit Lakes Area Community Foundation, Pelican Lake Property Owners Association, Natural Innovations, Otter Tail County Coalition of Lake Associations, Hubbard County COLA, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and an anonymous donor, Johnson noted.

A video download page has been created at the Natural Innovations website,, where members of the media and the general public can go to download and watch the PSA's.

"The website has the videos in a variety of formats, from user friendly to broadcast quality," Johnson said. "We're encouraging everybody to contact local media, post these videos on their (online) newsletters and websites so we can share this message and get it out to as many people as possible.

Basically, the most important things that people can do to prevent the spread of AIS is to make sure to clean off any visible vegetation from their boats and personal watercraft, spray them down with water, and open up boat and live well drains to ensure that no water from infested lakes and rivers is being transported to other water bodies.

The watercraft should also be allowed to dry fully before being used again, Johnson noted.

"Don't lake hop," she said.

In other words, don't take a boat or personal watercraft out of one water body and transport it to another on the same day.

"That's one of the biggest issues," Johnson added.

The reason is that microscopic larvae from zebra mussels and other invasive species, known as veligers, may lurk in water that sneaks into cracks and crevasses in the watercraft -- and thus can be spread to non-infested water bodies.

"Assume every lake is infested," Johnson said, and take precautionary measures as soon as the boat is removed from the water.

Johnson's family has a home on Pelican Lake, which is infested with zebra mussels. Speaking from personal experience, she added, zebra mussel infestation is very unpleasant to deal with.

"The shells are like razor blades," said Johnson. "They cut your feet -- it's not fun having to swim with little booties on."

Not only does the spread of AIS lower water quality and make fishing and recreational activities less enjoyable, but their removal can be an extremely costly undertaking, Johnson added.

For example, zebra mussels can cause boat motor damage, clogged water intakes, and require painstaking removal from docks and boat lifts each year.

"The economic impact of removing invasive species is tremendous," she said.

And even lakes that are infested with one type of invasive species may not yet be infested with another, Johnson added.

For example, Pelican Lake has zebra mussels, but not flowering rush -- which is a problem on Detroit Lake, where no zebra mussels have been found.

"We're hoping that this (campaign) will broaden awareness on the impacts of AIS and help prevent the spread of invasive species to lakes that are not infested," Johnson said.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454