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County sets criteria for AIS treatment funding

The Hubbard County Board adopted protocols for distributing funds from its AIS Rapid Response Fund.

County commissioners approved criteria that was developed by an AIS Advisory Team.

"There was a need to set up perimeters as far as how we're going to distribute rapid response funding, just to make sure that we don't run that money if there's a flux of infestations," said Hubbard County AIS Program Coordinator Bill DonCarlos at the Dec. 19 county board meeting.

Last year, the county set aside $30,000 in rapid response funds for AIS treatment and spent $3,250. Another $20,000 is slated for the 2018 AIS budget.

Earlier this year, the Hubbard County Board adopted a rapid response plan in the event of a newly detected AIS infestation.

With the exception of Benedict Lake, Garfield Lake and Bad Axe Lake, Hubbard County lakes have avoided major infestations of zebra mussel, starry stonewort, spiny water flea or Eurasian watermilfoil. Several lakes and rivers do have curly-leaf pondweed, faucet snails or banded mystery snails.

This fall, due to its connection with Leech Lake, which is known to have zebra mussels, Benedict Lake was added to Minnesota's "impaired waters list." In August, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources confirmed Hubbard County's first case of Eurasian watermilfoil in Bad Axe Lake. One month later, zebra mussel larvae were detected in Garfield Lake.

Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf reminded county commissioners that Bad Axe Lake Association submitted the first request for use of the rapid response funds in order to chemically treat the watermilfoil infestation. Initial treatment was estimated to cost $6,500. The county board and lake association agreed to split the expense 50-50.

The advisory team recommends that money will only be allocated "to treat new infestations where fast action is required," DonCarlos said. "They felt we should not fund annual, recurring treatments."

Projects will be funded only if the infestation is treatable and that "successful containment is likely."

"So, at this point and time, as far as animal infestations such as zebra mussels or rusty crayfish, there really is no feasible treatment so those would not be considered," explained DonCarlos.

Projects will be considered if the infestation is concentrated to one specific area, not lake-wide.

"If it's lake-wide, it's probably not treatable and it's probably not wise to allocate funding to it," he went on.

The DNR must also determine that treatment is a viable option.

Both the advisory team, the Environmental Services Department and the county board must support funding requests.

Funding will be capped at $20,000 annually.

The board approved the protocols.

The county's rapid response plan is based on steps recommended by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

After the report of a possible AIS infestation, the DNR will begin its investigation. Confirmed occurrences are added to Minnesota's published list of infested waters. Hubbard County managers will consult with experts as well as state and federal agencies to determine if action, such as treatment, containment, permits or funding, is warranted. A local response team will be formed to work with the DNR.

The complete rapid response plan is posted on the Hubbard County website.

In related business, the county board did the following:

• Renewed a one-year retainer agreement for legal services with Scott Anderson and his firm Rupp, Anderson, Squires & Waldspurger of Minneapolis. The $6,800 retainer fee is included in the ESO's 2018 budget, said Buitenwerf, and Anderson has provided legal counsel for the county since 2005.

• Authorized that county shoreland ordinance funds serve as the Hubbard County Soil and Water Conservation District's (SWCD) in-kind match for the Natural Resources Block Grant for the wetland conservation. SWCD requested that the county expenditures be counted toward the $17,800 match for 2016 and $25,103 match for 2017. No physical transfer of money is required.