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Back to the basics with invasives fight

Kandiyohi County Commissioner Dennis Peterson, left, and DNR supervisor Luke Skinner were on hand for the event in Spicer. Tribune photo by TJ Jerke

SPICER -- The key is education and self-responsibility, according to state and county officials who teamed up Thursday to show residents the most effective way to keep zebra mussels out of lakes.

With statewide legislation to help prevent the spread of the invasive species, the Green Lake Property Owners Association teamed up with the state Department of Natural Resources and other organizations to demonstrate the proper way to clean a boat before and after use.

Set up at the Spicer city water tower, Luke Skinner, supervisor of the DNR Invasive Species Program, power washed a boat and talked to a crowd of 25 about the effects of zebra mussels.

"We want to increase the exposure and the idea that this is important," Skinner said. "The fact that local communities are working together to increase awareness is great, and we are trying to get everyone to realize that it is the law. And most of the people that are educated follow the law and know what to do."

The demonstration was sponsored by the Green Lake Property Owners Association, Kandiyohi County, city of Spicer, the Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District and the Little Crow Anglers Club. The club is set to host the first 2011 Green Lake fishing tournament today and Saturday.

To encourage anglers to clean off their boats during the demonstration, the property owners association and Little Crow Anglers Club entered the boat owners into a $200 raffle drawing to be given away during the tournament.

Terry Frazee, executive secretary of the property owners association, told the crowd that the demonstration was intended to not only spread the interest around Green Lake, but to help all lakes.

"We want to let people know we have a problem and we are only 35 miles from zebra mussels and all it takes is one boat," Frazee said. "We have to have cooperation from everybody. Everybody take care of their own boat, and we won't have a problem."

Skinner said there are 20 known lakes that are infested with zebra mussels along with the Mississippi River from Brainerd to the Iowa border.

The DNR has purchased three high-pressure mobile washers that will be sent out around the state over the ensuing water recreation season to clean off any watercrafts deemed necessary by inspectors or officers.

The mobile washing units are designed to recycle water and maintain a constant heated water temperature to kill the zebra mussels.

Skinner said the DNR has 100 watercraft inspectors patrolling the state along with 135 conservation officers that will be at boat landings making sure the new law is being implemented.

Kandiyohi County Commissioner Dennis Peterson said 13 sheriff's deputies have also taken proper training to inspect watercraft and levy penalties if the law is violated.

If an officer notices a watercraft violating the new law, a civil penalty can range from a $50 to a $250 ticket while a criminal penalty can result in a fine of over $1,000.

The new law requires watercraft owners to remove all vegetation, drain water out of boats and buckets, and to not transport any water in containers.

"It's a lot about personal responsibility," Skinner said. "We need boaters and anglers to take those steps to do the right thing."

Skinner said watercraft owners should clean, drain and dry their boats as three main preventative steps to reduce the risk of spreading any invasive species.

Spicer City Councilman Troy Block and owner of Green Lake Enterprises, which rents boats and jet skis, reinforced the message that education is key to preserving Green Lake.

"I like the heads up and the fact that we are getting a jump on it right away," Block said. "We need to do everything we can to keep the gem that we have."