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Transporting mussels carries consequences

Zebra mussels1 / 2
Zebra mussels2 / 2

Be careful about what you're transporting into a lake.

If it turns out to be zebra mussels, you could face legal charges.

That's what happened to a 54-year-old Fargo man last week and a 30-year-old Eagle Bend man in November.

The men were charged in separate cases under a new law that prohibits people from moving a piece of lake equipment that has aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels attached to it.

If convicted, they each face misdemeanor penalties of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The Department of Natural Resources could also impose civil penalties, with fines of up to $500.

George Wynn of Fargo was charged in Otter Tail County District Court last week. The charges stem from an incident that happened on Rose Lake near Vergas last September.

According to court records, when Wynn and another man took a lift out of Rose Lake, the other man noticed it was covered with zebra mussels and recommended that Wynn call the DNR. Wynn allegedly declined and transported the lift anyway.

Since it was the end of the season, the lift didn't go back into another lake. However, the DNR claims that Wynn's lift was the source of the zebra mussel infestation that was later found in Rose Lake. The DNR believes that Wynn likely purchased the lift from someone who had it in Lake Lizzie, another zebra mussel infested lake.

This wasn't the first case of someone being charged under the new invasive species rule.

In early November, Mark Ratajesak, 30, of Eagle Bend, was charged in Douglas County District Court with transporting zebra mussels.

Authorities say that on June 8, 2011, Ratajesak removed a dock from a lake and placed it in Lake Irene. The dock had been cleaned but a few zebra mussels remained on it, authorities said.

The next court hearing in the misdemeanor case is set for January 23.

Zebra mussels on Lake Irene were discovered earlier this fall.

Because the mussels were found in a specific area and were not believed to be in the reproductive stage yet, the DNR treated portions of both Rose and Irene this past November. Concentrating on the areas where the lift and dock were submerged, it used copper sulfate from a licensed aquatic pesticide contractor.

The DNR will monitor the lakes in the next few years to see if the treatments were successful.

The DNR strongly recommends that all boat lifts and docks be cleaned thoroughly by pressure washing with hot water, and dried for a minimum of two weeks before putting the equipment into a body of water.

Boat lifts and docks are of particular concern because they sit in the water for extended periods, giving adult zebra mussels a greater opportunity to attach themselves.

More information about aquatic invasive species is available on the DNR website at:


The Department of Natural Resources lists 12 lakes in Douglas County as infested with zebra mussels. They include Alvin, Brophy, Carlos, Cowdry, Darling, Geneva, Jessie, L'Homme Dieu, Taylor, North Union, Stoney and Victoria. Sections of the Long Prairie River in Douglas, Todd and Cass counties are also infested. Statewide, more than 70 sites are listed, not including unnamed wetlands, ponds and tributaries.