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Willmar Notebook: Good water not free

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Independence Day is a reminder to us all that “Freedom is not Free.”

Neither, too, are clear lakes.

Anglers, boaters and lake-siders are surely well aware of the precious commodity, but we landlubbers must occasionally remind ourselves of the local bounty and the need to protect.

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The other day, up in Spicer, I happened on two young men in lawn chairs at the public access next to Saulsbury Beach. Tyler Dick and Chase Austvold, recent familiar names on these sports pages, were on duty. Their mission: to educate, inspect and help out boaters launching onto Green Lake.

They are on the alert for zebra mussels, especially, and Eurasian milfoil.

It’s illegal, they told me, to carry plant or animal on a boat from one water body to another. Same with water. That’s the “plug law.”

It’s not that they’re out to bust people. Both are Level II watercraft inspectors, who also happen to be chemistry majors in college: Tyler, a KMS grad, is at St. John’s University, and Chase, an NLS grad, at Concordia College, where he also wrestles.

They can deny a watercraft launch access. But their mission is to educate and decontaminate, if necessary. They are both certified to run the decontamination unit parked in the grassy area along Lake Avenue.

The gun sends out a jet of water heated to 140 degrees, hot enough to kill an adult zebra mussel. This is no toy. It’s brand new and cost $18,000.

To learn more about the battle with Aquatic Invasive Species, I contacted Dave Coahran, DNR Area Fisheries Supervisor. He emphasized that everyone has stepped up, including boaters via self-inspection, the Kandiyohi County Sheriff Department, the county board, the Middle Fork of the Crow River Watershed District and property owners on Green Lake. He directed me to the DNR website, which lists lakes already afflicted with z-mussels and E-foil.

The list is very long, and it includes five county lakes with E-foil.

But there are none listed with z-mussels. Douglas County, on the other hand, shows around 25 lakes infested with z-mussels. In Pope County, wonderful Lake Minnewaska and also Reno have the mark of “Zorro.” Mille Lacs, too, is on the list.

Though some say there is no stopping a plague that can be microscopic riding on a duck’s wing, the Green Lake Property Owners concede nothing.

The GLPO has over 500 dues-paying members.

Executive secretary Terry Frazee said each member pays $100 yearly with the AIS fund getting 40 percent. The GLPO paid for the $18,000 decontamination unit, leased it to the city for $1, specifying only that it stay at the Saulsbury access.

“It’s free to use; anyone can use it,” said Frazee, who lives on the southeast side on a lot that his parents bought in 1955 for $2,000. “You can be driving up from Worthington headed for the North Country and stop and use it. The Little Crow ski team can use it returning from road shows. You need to decontaminate everything, including ropes and life preservers.”

The State Legislature has weighed in passing continuous AIS funding in the most recent tax bill. This year $4.5 million is allocated and $10 million each year thereafter to be allocated among 83 of the 87 counties with public accesses. According to the July issue of the GLPO’s Green Lake Breeze, the county must spend $256,000 per year on restoration and protecting lakes from aquatic invasive species. 

Frazee said that GLPO president Jamie Duininck and the 12-member board are determined to be “pro-active, not re-active.” He added: “The fishing groups have been our best ally. We all want to protect our lakes.”

The GLPO provides $20,000 a year to buy chemicals to control E-foil, which, for now, is confined to about two acres of the 5,400-acre gem.

Finally, I called the Middle Fork Watershed office, also on County Road 8 south of Spicer. Mike Behan answered. The hydrologic technician is a New London-Spicer and St. Cloud State graduate, working under supervisor Margaret Johnson.

If I got this right, there is one county-wide DNR inspector and five seasonal inspectors to cover all the lakes. Three are assigned to Green Lake and two to the watershed. Funding for the watershed comes from an annual tax levy and DNR grants.

But the inspectors can’t be everywhere 24-7. Education and personal responsibility are keys.

Behan sounded like it is working. Cooperation and compliance seem “very high.”

Lakeland revisited

Andy Jacobson’s 11-under par 205 score to win the Lakeland Golf Tournament on Sunday is the lowest score since the Eagle Creek event was jacked to 54 holes in 2005. Jacobson, a six-time winner in those 10 years, and Rick Freiburg each shot 207 in 2012, Freiburg winning on the second playoff hole. Aaron Barber also shot 207, in 2011, the only time the former PGA Tour pro from New London played in the long-form years.

Jacobson, who campaigns each year to bring in top competition, would like to bring back seven-time Lakeland champ John Spreiter, who last played in 2004, the last year of the 45-hole format.

‘Come on Eileen:’ The joyous ditty was 1983 Britain Song of the Year (by Dexy’s Midnight Runners and worth a visit to YouTube). At the time, Eileen Thompson was a captain and named “Hardest Worker” on Coach Lynn Peterson’s 1983-84 Region 2AA champions, the first Cardinals girls hoops team to reach the state tournament.

The fiddle and drum in an accelerating chorus of “Come on Eileen” always makes me think of that exciting season. Now, it was Eileen’s 17-year-old son, Isaac Armitage, who won the Lakeland Select Flight on Sunday.

Eileen and husband Tom live in North St. Paul. Isaac, the oldest of three boys, plays on the Mahtomedi High School golf team and was medalist in several conference meets this spring. He looks forward next year to defending here, his grandmother Colleen Thompson Michels tells me.

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Rand Middleton

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334
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