AIS Task Force hope to pull Crow Wing lakes aboard
BY JEAN RUZICKA
The lakeside village of Akeley, positioned at the head of the Crow Wing lakes, agreed Wednesday night to make a donation toward “shielding” the chain from the infestation of Aquatic Invasive Species.
Ken Grob, chair of the county’s AIS Task Force, is hoping the message now heads downstream.
Grob and 11th Crow Wing Lake Association president Kim Bowen arrived at the meeting to explain the object is to prevent the spread of zebra mussels and Eurasion milfoil in county lakes.
“We’re lucky,” Grob said. “There is none at this point.”
Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations and the Soil and Water Conservation District have actively supported watercraft inspection for several years.
Last summer, over 4,700 hours were documented and 7,100 inspections completed in Hubbard County.
This summer’s program has been expanded.
Hubbard County cities, townships and lake associations have raised $100,000 to hire 20 Department of Natural Resources trained and certified lake inspectors this summer. A full-time seasonal inspector, Nathan Sitz, will be on board. And a decontamination station has been purchased and will be located in Dorset.
“Most of the major lakes and watersheds have committed some resources to inspections – except the Crow Wing chain of lakes,” Grob told the council. “It is a major gap in the Hubbard County AIS Task Force’s goal for full coverage to shield our lakes from AIS.”
The 11th Crow Wing Lake Association has coordinated watercraft inspections at the campground and the association is contributing funds for the watercraft inspection initiative.
The motivation is not simply ecological, but financial, Grob explained.
Water-related properties in the townships where the Crow Wing lakes are located make up 70 percent of the taxable market value of all the properties in Akeley, Nevis and Crow Wing Lake townships and the city of Akeley, totaling $289,837,000.
The city of Akeley has a TMV of water-related properties of $8.38 million, 37 percent of its TMV.
“Research has shown that if a lake becomes infested with an AIS, property values can plummet as much as 13 percent,” Grob said. “Some estimates suggest much higher reductions for zebra mussels,” he said. “Possibly as high as 30 percent. It is clear that the Crow Wing chain of lakes should participate in the DNR’s shielding strategy to help protect the value of their lakes.”
Biologists have been warning about zebra mussels for more than 100 years, he said. The zebra mussels moved to North America with the opening of the Canadian Welland ship canal in the 1960s and were first discovered in the U.S. in 1988. A rapid expansion in the Great Lakes raised strong concerns in Minnesota by 2000.
“Prevention is the most cost-effective action and the cornerstone of the Minnesota approach,” he told the Akeley council.
The council agreed, approving a $500 donation.
An increase to support AIS work has been proposed by the DNR several times but has not met legislative approval, Grob said. “Bottom line is the DNR is limited in what they can do financially. It has championed several laws on bait dealers, lake service providers, and the public to help prevent the spread. It has provided over $250,000 annually in grants for watercraft inspection. It has hired staff AIS specialists, trainers, etc. for the northwest region to support local organizations in prevention work.
“To be most effective in AIS work, the DNR has focused most of their resources on containment of AIS to already infested lakes,” Grob said. Over 90 percent of watercraft inspections resources in 2012 were on infested lakes.
The DNR strategy is to ask local governments (county, city and townships) and lake associations (without state funding) to “shield their lakes” while the DNR focuses resources on infested lakes.
“If Hubbard County waits for the DNR to have enough resources it will be too late,” Grob cautions. ‘We must take responsibility to do all we can to prevent introduction of AIS while the DNR focuses on containment and research.”