Thousands of boats inspected by Kandiyohi County for invasive species in 2019
WILLMAR — As area boaters and anglers took to the Kandiyohi County lakes this year, aquatic invasive species inspectors continued to do their part to try to protect local waters from zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and other problematic species.
Throughout the boating season, the 21 county inspectors completed 11,003 inspections. Thirteen county lakes had inspectors including Green, Big Kandiyohi, Florida, Games, Long and Norway.
"At most accesses, the inspection rate increased," said Russ Hilbert, AIS project coordinator for Kandiyohi County. Hilbert presented the end-of-the-year aquatic invasive species reports to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.
With $280,594 in funding from the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Aid program, the Kandiyohi County inspectors logged 6,493 hours at 18 public water accesses in the county.
"I appreciate your efforts," said Commissioner Steve Ahmann. "It is a lot of work and a lot of man hours."
Most of the boats inspected came out clean, with no issues. However, a small percentage of boats did have problems.
"We did find a total of 188 violations on incoming boats," Hilbert said.
The violations included boats with mud, zebra mussels, plants and water still on or in them. Only one of the 188 violations required the watercraft to go through an immediate decontamination.
Kandiyohi County has two decontamination units, the first set up at Saulsbury Beach on Green Lake while the second splits time between Big Kandiyohi and Norway Lake. The units allow a boat to go through a deep clean after leaving a lake, to help cut back on the chance of an aquatic invasive species being transported to a different body of water. In 2019 there were 140 voluntary decontaminations done, fewer than the 243 in 2018.
"There was a 57 percent decrease in the number of decontaminations. I was a bit disappointed in that," Hilbert said.
The reason for the decrease, Hilbert believed, was the placement of the units as well as the inspectors not urging more boaters to clean their watercraft.
"That is something I want to work on. I want to encourage more people to take advantage of that," Hilbert said.
To educate the public about invasive species, the county airs announcements on public television, ads on local radio stations and has partnered with Randy Frederickson, a former teacher, to educated seventh-graders on aquatic invasive species.
The commissioners feel this outreach is an important tool, especially with the youth.
"The education piece is huge," said Commissioner Roger Imdieke.
The commissioners hope more boaters will help with aquatic invasive species mitigation by decontaminating their boats and checking for possible issues before and after leaving a lake.
"It should seem to me the public should be well-aware of the need to do this," said Commissioner Rollie Nissen.
This will help keep other lakes free of AIS. Kandiyohi County already has 12 lakes infested with zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil or both.
"Every year we get a couple more lakes. We are running out of lakes that aren't infested, frankly," Nissen said.
Aquatic invasive species can cause significant harm to the ecosystems of area lakes, impacting fish numbers and water quality. Zebra mussels reduce the food available for some native species and impact water clarity while watermilfoil overtakes the habitat of native species and is not a good option for food, shelter or nesting material for native animals, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR, along with with its county partners, have been working for years to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. The inspection program in Kandiyohi County is one important part of that process.
"We have to continue to be vigilant," Imdieke said.