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Aquatic Invasive Species campaign ready for opener

Many lakes will alert anglers that their boats will be inspected before and after launch. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

The war on Aquatic Invasive Species launches into high gear in Hubbard County opening weekend, but it's already making waves.

Numerous high profile public campaigns are running to warn boat operators of AIS and the dangers to property values and lake health.

Restaurant placemats will give educational tips at area diners, signs will be everywhere.

And those campaigns are aimed not just at the mom and pop anglers in their aging Lunds, they're targeting any watercraft and water-related equipment. AIS can be spread via those Lunds, jet skis, wakeboards, sailboats, scuba gear, canoes, kayaks and even floatplanes.

And don't overlook the fishing gear, waders, docks, boat lifts, moorings and waterfowl hunting gear that can spread a foreign substance to a body of water.

Wednesday the Hubbard County board heard a proposal to actually hire a full- or part-time employee to coordinate resources, volunteers, lake associations and governmental entities in the assault on AIS. To date, six townships and cities have ponied up $20,000 for watercraft inspectors and lake associations have contributed an eye-popping amount to hire 13 full-time summer inspectors to start opening weekend, May 12.

Those new hires will be positioned at area public access points to warn, educate, inspect and collect data.

Meanwhile, numerous dock and boatlift installers have been certified as Lake Service Providers.

Under new laws, anyone, whether it's your neighbor kid or a professional firm, must have a permit and DNR certification to install a dock if they are being paid to do so.

Those LSPs include resort owners who have joined the campaign. They are distributing literature to their guests and advising them of increasingly more stringent laws in the wake of numerous infestations of zebra mussels in 2011. Neighboring Leech Lake in Walker is an "at risk" lake. Lakes in Ottertail County have been inundated with the spread of those mollusks.

Hubbard County lake activist Ken Grob visited the county board Wednesday to update commissioners on each flank of the war.

"Our AIS task force is up and running," he announced.

He stressed that the focus should be on watersheds, not necessarily individual lakes.

Major access points will be inspected starting May 12, he said.

That concerned commissioner Lyle Robinson, who said he's seen long waiting lines to launch at Leech Lake with boats and trailers lined up down U.S. Highway 371. The longer the lines, the more inclined those boaters will be to launch at an unprotected site, he suggested.

"It doesn't do to plug five holes if you can go in the other three," he said.

Grob said there are many challenges yet in the fight. The Crow Wing chain of lakes is relatively unprotected due to fewer access points, small lakes and lake associations that are barely functional.

Lakes Kabekona and Plantagenet need more resources and education to join the collective push.

Public access points should have decontamination stations, he said, but those could cost upwards of $10,000. A hot water pressure wash is necessary to decontaminate boats from departing heavily infested waters.

The campaign will need long-term sustainable funding.

And early detection, especially of zebra mussels, is critical, Grob said,

"Think veligers, think veligers, think veligers," he said.

Microscopic veligers aid the spawning of zebra mussels.

Grob closed his presentation reading from a warning about zebra mussels' unusual tenacity.

The publication was in 1893. A Polish biologist was warning about the spread of zebra mussels out of Eastern Europe and Asia via an extensive canal system.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

(218) 732-3364