SAINT PAUL - The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced plans for a much more aggressive effort to control the spread of aquatic invasive species this year.
For the first time in years, the DNR will use roadside check stations to enforce laws aimed at keeping boaters from spreading zebra mussels and other invasive species. It will also be adding 150 new watercraft inspectors, and purchase and install 20 decontamination units around the state.
"It's time to step up and get people's attention,'' said Col. Jim Konrad, who was among DNR officials announcing the plans as the department's two-day roundtable discussions began in St. Paul on Friday.
Konrad, director of enforcement for the DNR, said past inspections have shown a relatively high rate - 18 percent- of violations. "We want a zero rate,'' he said.
Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner, also emphasized that the DNR wants to work with local government units and see them play a larger role in combatting the spread of invasive species.
The announcements were welcome news to Dennis Peterson, a member of the Kandiyohi County board of commissioners. Peterson has argued for more aggressive enforcement and stiffer penalties to protect the waters of Kandiyohi County. He said the news he heard Friday was much better than was the case just one year ago. He too would like to see local authorities play a larger role.
He also noted that much remains to be done both to educate the public and enlist Legislative support.