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Commentary: Recent AIS infestations are call for action when closing your cabin for the winter

Hubbard County lakeshore owners, anglers and boaters got a wake-up call when zebra mussel larvae were confirmed in Garfield Lake and Eurasian water milfoil found in Bad Axe Lake. Lake Benedict has also been listed as infested with zebra mussels due to its connection to Leech Lake.

Zebra mussel veligers were discovered in Garfield Lake as part of Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations' (COLA) lake monitoring program in conjunction with property owners on Garfield Lake. An independent laboratory, RMB Laboratory in Detroit Lakes, confirmed the presence of larvae in Garfield Lake.

In 2017, COLA's zebra mussel veliger monitoring program included 13 other lakes that were sampled in conjunction with their lake association and those results showed there were no veligers in the samples.

COLA is reminding lake property owners to carefully check boats and trailers, docks and lifts and all other water-related equipment for invasive species when closing cabins for winter. Lakeshore owners are further encouraged to inspect their shoreline and search around their lake for aquatic invasive species.

Early detection of AIS gives you the best opportunity to keep these invaders in check through rapid response and containment. Knowing if invasive species are in your lake can help raise awareness among all lake users about the need to clean, drain and dry boats and gear before visiting different lakes.

Once AIS arrives in our local lakes, they can become established before anyone is even aware of their presence. When invasive species take hold, they can be difficult and costly to manage.

In newly infested waters, adult zebra mussels may not be abundant and you may notice only a few mussels on your equipment. Zebra mussels look like small, D-shaped clams that have alternating light and dark bands. Most are less than one inch long. For tips and tactics on how to identify aquatic invasive species go to www.hubbardcolamn.org/identification.html.

When removing boats, docks, lifts or other water-related equipment from lakes and rivers, carefully inspect everything to make sure there are no AIS, such as zebra mussels, Eurasian water milfoil or starry stonewort attached. Look on the posts, wheels and underwater support bars of docks and lifts, as well as any parts of boats, pontoons, and rafts that may have been submerged in water for an extended period.

If you hire a business to install or remove your boat, dock or lift or other water-related equipment, make sure that they have completed the AIS training and are on the DNR's list of Permitted Service Providers.

If you plan to move a dock, lift or other water-related equipment from one lake to another, all visible zebra mussels, faucet snails and aquatic plants must be removed whether they are dead or alive. You may not transport equipment with prohibited invasive species or aquatic plants attached. Minnesota law requires that docks and lifts must be out of the water for at least 21 days before being placed in another water body, whether aquatic invasive species are present or not.

You may remove water-related equipment from a water body — even if it has zebra mussels or other prohibited invasive species attached — and place it on the adjacent shoreline property without a permit. However, if you want to transport a dock or lift to another location for storage or repair, you may need a permit to authorize transport of prohibited invasive species and aquatic plants. More information is available on the MDNR website www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/shoreland_owners.html.

Early detection of AIS is important in protecting lakeshore property and Minnesota's water resources. Hubbard County COLA has implemented an online survey to foster AIS early detection and lake monitoring actions. The survey focuses on lake monitoring for invasive animals, like zebra mussels, and invasive plants, such as starry stonewort and Eurasian water milfoil. If you live on a lake or river and wish to participate in the 2017 "Eyes on the Water" survey, we invite you to join the survey on our website (www.hubbardcolamn.org) or Facebook page and help us look for AIS.

Responding quickly to new AIS infestations is critical to help curb the spread into other water bodies. If you find something you suspect is a zebra mussel, faucet snail or other aquatic invasive species, note the exact location, take a photo, keep the specimen and contact the Park Rapids DNR AIS Specialist at 218-732-8960 or fisheries office at 218-732-4153.

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