As cabin owners and boaters pull their docks, boats and lifts out of lakes this fall, the DNR urges them to take precautions to prevent and curb the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).
No. 1 on the list of precautions is to take responsibility to follow recently enacted laws regarding AIS. Without everyone’s cooperation, the risk of spreading AIS increases, according to the DNR, which offered tips to help people comply with new state laws and help identify any potential newly infested waters.
Dan Swanson, DNR aquatic invasive species specialist in Brainerd, said people are starting to take boat lifts and docks out of the water in the lakes area. He hasn’t yet heard from anyone finding more zebra mussels in Pelican Lake, but he did start receiving calls three weeks ago about zebra mussels being found on equipment in Round Lake.
“They’re starting to see not real high numbers, but they’re starting to see them on dock equipment,” Swanson said.
Round Lake was listed as infested with zebra mussels in 2010, when they were found in Gull Lake, prompting all water bodies in the Gull reservoir to be listed, including Round. However, Round Lake property owners didn’t start noticing zebra mussels until now.
Bishop’s Creek connects Round and Gull lakes, and most likely veligers (larval stage) moved through the creek from Gull to Round, Swanson said.
“We’re getting reports from Round and it’s not a surprise. People are just starting to notice them right now,” he said.
Lake service providers who install and remove docks and boat lifts from the water are now required to have a permit proving they have taken AIS training. Swanson said the past several such training sessions haven’t drawn a lot of providers, which he hopes means the majority are certified.
“If they have no permit to operate then they are in violation of the law,” he said, noting there will be more opportunities for such training for new service providers before next spring.
People who hire lake service providers should make sure the provider has a yellow sticker on the driver’s side of the windshield indicating they are certified. Employees must have a training certificate.
“Our goal right now is to get them properly trained so they’re doing things the right way,” said Phil Meier, DNR Enforcement operations manager in St. Paul.
A list of permitted providers is available on the DNR website at http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/rlp/permits/lsp/lsp-permits.pdf.
If anyone does spot a suspected zebra mussel, take a photo of it and take the specimen to a DNR office.
“We had two to three people come in from different lakes who thought they had a zebra mussel but they had a snail,” Swanson said. “But it’s good if they think they have zebra mussels that they keep the specimen and let us know. Drop it off. That’s what we want to see; we want to see the specimen.”
While it’s illegal to transport watercraft with zebra mussels, faucet snails or aquatic invasive plants attached, the DNR now has an authorization form on its website for people to print and use if they do need to move the watercraft before cleaning it. They must list where they are leaving from and where they are going, and they must take the watercraft somewhere to clean it and store it, and not to another body of water.
The forms are available online at www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/ais_transport.html.
Jay Rendall, DNR invasive species prevention coordinator in St. Paul, said another law specifies that if people are storing docks and lifts on their shore for the winter before putting them back in the same body of water next spring, they don’t have to remove zebra mussels or other AIS.
You only have to clean equipment that you are transporting to another location for storage, he said, noting the species die off over winter when on land.
“Zebra mussels can live below the ice in the water, but not out of the water,” he said.
Waterfowl hunters are subject to the same laws regarding AIS. They are reminded to rinse off any items such as waders, decoys, decoy anchor lines, boats and push poles.
“They’re subject to our laws just like all the other boaters,” Rendall said.
Meier reiterated that this is a critical time of the year when people are taking their water-related equipment out of the lake after its been in the water since last spring.
“We have lots of rules, regulations and best management practices in place to make sure people are doing the right things to take care not to be able to transport aquatic invasive species,” he said, urging anyone with doubts or questions to call the DNR to ensure what they’re doing is legal and proper.
“We’d rather handle it that way than deal with the consequences afterward,” Meier said.
Contact Swanson, the lakes area’s AIS regional specialist, at 218-833-8645. More information about AIS is available at www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/index_aquatic.html.