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DNR to continue monitoring local lakes for starry stonewort

Starry stonework forms thick, dense mats that crowd out native vegetation and smother spawning habitat for fish. (SUBMITTED)

SPICER — With the discovery of starry stonewort in Lake Koronis last August, workers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources donned snorkels, masks and fins and searched the waters near boat landings on lakes all around Kandiyohi and neighboring counties.

They will be doing so again soon, according to Tim Plude, invasive species specialist with the DNR. He told members of the Green Lake Property Owners Association on Saturday that at least at this point, the invasive algae has not been found in any other lake in Minnesota.

He said the DNR is looking at expanding its monitoring area to look at lakes closer to the metropolitan area, and possibly lakes to the north. The invasive species has been spreading west ever since its introduction in the St. Lawrence seaway near New York, and is now present in lakes in Michigan and Wisconsin.

“The sad part, this is one that blindsided us,’’ said Plude. There has been very little research on starry stonewort, and management efforts where it exists have not been very successful, he said.

Stony stonewort forms thick mats on lake bottoms and crowds out native vegetation. The single cell algae attaches to form plant-like strands as long as six feet.

It has spread quickly throughout Lake Koronis. Its heaviest infestation is in the bay at the Minnesota Highway 55 access. The Koronis Lake Association and DNR are working to manage the infestation. The Lake Association is seeking funds for a five year, $800,000 effort to manage it.

Plude said the algae can be spread if carried to other waters in bait buckets, live wells or equipment.

Starry stonewort develops small, white bulbils that remain in lake sediment year around. They can be inadvertently transported as part of the muck that comes up with anchors and their ropes, he noted.

Education and enforcement of invasive species laws are the main tools to control its spread, according to Skip Wright, district supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s ecological and water services.

No different than adjusting to the need for more security at our airports, lake users today are going to have to change their practices at boat accesses to make sure the unwelcome critters aren’t hitching a ride, he explained.

Wright said the DNR will not quarantine lakes when an invasive species is found in it. “The water belongs to everybody and it is everybody’s to fix,’’ he said.

He added that people are responding to the need for vigilance. He said a recent report to the county’s Aquatic Invasive Species committee by Sheriff Dan Hartog showed that of the first 217 boat inspections conducted by sheriff’s deputies this season, only one violation was found.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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