DNR, Mille Lacs County Aim to slow Spread of Invasives
With the fishing season in full swing, many boaters and anglers will be flocking to Mille Lacs Lake from all across the country to experience the world-class fishery in our backyard. The Mille Lacs Band Department of Natural Resources is taking a giant leap to help control the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) by partnering with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Mille Lacs County Land Services to install a state-of-the-art watercraft cleaning station at the Shaw-bosh-kung Bay public access.
Chad Weiss, an aquatic biologist with the Mille Lacs Band DNR, is tasked with monitoring the water quality of Mille Lacs Lake. Along with Environmental Programs Director Perry Bunting, Chad attends the Mille Lacs Watershed Management Group meetings where the watercraft cleaning station was first discussed over one year ago. "Perry and I thought it would be beneficial to have a CD3 station for combatting AIS on Mille Lacs," Chad said.
Invasive species are species that are not native to Minnesota and cause economic or environmental harm or are harmful to human health. Minnesota’s natural resources, including Mille Lacs Lake, are threatened by a number of aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, Eurasian watermilfoil, and more. A recent study published by the University of Minnesota indicates the water clarity of Mille Lacs has increased since the 1990s. Further clearing of the water happened after invasive zebra mussels entered Mille Lacs in 2005, according to the study.
Water clarity is one of the important factors for walleye habitat as walleye generally prefer chilly, murky water. Clearer and warmer water may be linked to declining numbers of the walleye population of Mille Lacs, according to the study. Because more sunlight can get through clear water, the water temperature may also rise. This creates a good habitat for AIS to survive and reproduce. But cleaning boats and water craft after exiting any body of water can help prevent the spread of AIS.
"Mille Lacs is a super spreader," said Ed Rudberg, Ph.D. and founding partner of CD3, Clean-Drain-Dry-Dispose, the water cleaning station company. "This cleaning station is designed to help stop the spread."
This CD3 unit is a powder-coated aluminum, solar-powered station to help boaters to clean, drain, dry, and dispose of AIS that may have attached to their boats and trailers. It is equipped with several user-friendly tools for boaters to rid their watercraft of AIS. There is a scrubbing brush; a grabber to reach AIS from under the boats and other hard to reach areas; a wet/dry vac to make certain all of the water is removed; and a high-pressure air hose to easily remove AIS and dry hard-to-reach places with air.
The cleaning station is also equipped with WiFi. Why would a cleaning station be set up with WiFi? The station will be able to send data back to the DNR to track valuable information: the number of discrete users; time spent by each user; number of times each tool is used; hourly, daily, weekly and monthly use trends; and other feedback from users. This information can then be used to help apply for grants that, if awarded, may in-turn result in more funding for furthering the goal of reducing or eliminating AIS.
Removing all AIS and aquatic plants from watercraft after exiting the water is not only the right thing to do to help prevent the spread of AIS, it is also the law. In summary, the law states you may not: transport watercraft without removing the drain plug; arrive at lake access with drain plug in place; transport aquatic plants, zebra mussels, or other prohibited species on any roadway; launch a watercraft with prohibited species attached; transport water from Minnesota lakes or rivers; release bait into the water.
"I think the CD3 stations on Mille Lacs will be a great tool for fishermen who use Mille Lacs for a day or a weekend," Chad said.
The CD3 station at Shaw-Bosh-Kung Bay public access is the first to be installed and will hopefully not be the last on Mille Lacs Lake. The cost of the cleaning station is nearly $31,000. Mille Lacs County is taking on the responsibility to fund the initial start-up costs, and the Band DNR will provide all of the maintenance of the station and gather all of the data.
Since Shaw-Bosh-Kung Bay public access is a state-owned access, the Minnesota DNR has approved placing the unit in the parking lot. It will be a permanent structure. Ed Rudberg and Mark Apfelbacher of CD3 are in the process of discussions with Aitkin County and Crow Wing County as well to see about the possibilities of also partnering with them to place more watercraft cleaning stations around the lake.
By installing this CD3 watercraft cleaning station, the Band is helping to "protect everyone’s asset," Chad said.
The watercraft cleaning station is scheduled to arrive at Shaw-Bosh-Kung public access in the first part of June.
Clean, Drain, Dispose
CLEAN all visible aquatic plants, zebra mussels, and other prohibited invasive species from watercraft, trailers, and water-related equipment before leaving any water access or shoreland.
DRAIN water-related equipment (boat, ballast tanks, portable bait containers, motor) and drain bilge, livewell, and baitwell by removing drain plugs before leaving a water access or shoreline property. Keep drain plugs out and water-draining devices open while transporting watercraft.
DISPOSE of unwanted bait, including minnows, leeches, and worms, in the trash. It is illegal to release bait into a waterbody or release aquatic animals from one waterbody to another. If you want to keep your bait, you must refill the bait container with bottled or tap water.
Personal watercraft operators should turn on the engine for 5 to 10 seconds after removing the watercraft from the water to expel the water and organisms inside the impeller.