Minn. DNR plans stout efforts against aquatic invasive species
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced plans Friday 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 new 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 Friday in St. Paul.
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.
Conservation officers issued 487 tickets last year for violations, as compared to 159 in 2010.
Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner, also emphasized that the department wants to work with local government units and see them play a larger role in combatting the spread of invasive species. Kandiyohi County sheriff's deputies are among the peace officers in the state now trained and authorized to issue citations for violations of the state's aquatic invasive species laws.
The DNR announcements were welcome news to Dennis Peterson, a member of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners in attendance at Friday's session. 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. Peterson had urged legislators to increase the penalties for violating aquatic invasive species laws, but without success.
Decontamination stations will be located at both infected lakes and uninfected destination lakes, according to DNR officials.