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Communities in action against aquatic invasive species

Jeff Forester Executive Director of The Minnesota Lakes and River Advocacy Group praised the successful efforts of the local community and the Hubbard County Lake Associations for their efforts in preventing aquatic invasive species (AIS). (Gary Korsgaden / For the Enterprise)

Jeff Forester, Executive Director Minnesota Lakes and River Advocacy Group, appeared with a number of other aquatic invasive species (AIS) experts and community leaders for a presentation Tuesday at Riverside United Methodist Church.

These invited guests of Chip Nielson included Julie Kingsley, Hubbard County Soil and Water Conservation District; Nicole Kovar, Minnesota DNR AIS Specialist; and Lynn Goodrich, President of Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations.

 Forester, from the Twin Cities, has a wide range of expertise with states dealing with aquatic invasive species. Forester pointed out that 18 percent of Minnesota waters now have zebra mussels.

Mille Lacs lake, for example, has enough bio mass of zebra mussels to filter all the water in the lake once every three days. Forester alluded to that fact that zebra mussels may have been a factor to the collapse of the lake’s walleye population. Forester pointed to Lake Minnetonka as a major source for zebra mussels that have spread across the state.

Forester went on to say boats are not the only means of zebra mussel transfer; docks and lifts are high on the risk list also.

Lake property owners are the best source for what is going on in the lakes, says Forester. Forester used the example of a first time boater, using a depth sounder to find spots on the lake that the local property owner already knows. Forester added that lake property owners have a strong connection to the lakes they are on, seek out their local lake association and are connected to the faith-based community churches.

Forester stated in his opinion, Minnesota is too lenient on AIS law violators. States to the west check boats as they enter the state, and if found in violation levy a $10,000 fine and confiscation of the boat.

"It doesn’t take long before the word gets out on the stiff fines and noncompliance percentage numbers drop," Forester emphasized.

Julie Kingsley, Hubbard County Soil and Water, shared her thoughts regarding the first years inspectors were at local accesses.

"Fisherman threw their leeches at me when I told them they needed to change their water before leaving the access, and I nearly got run over by eager boaters not willing to stop to be inspected," Kingsley commented.

In 2015, Hubbard County had 21,000 inspections on 30-plus lakes with over a dozen boats confirmed to have zebra mussels on them trying to enter area lakes.

Nicole Kovar, Minnesota DNR AIS Specialist, shared the importance of knowing the lakes that are infested in the state by going to the DNR website or by finding the information in the fishing proclamation. Kovar shared that Hubbard County has two decontamination stations available in 2016.

Lynn Goodrich, President of the Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations pointed out the enormous number of hours and funds that lake association members put in to protect Hubbard County’s lakes and rivers. The lakes are public for all to use and enjoy, with that ownership comes the responsibility to protect.

Goodrich pointed out that shielding Hubbard County’s lakes is working and important, indicated by the lakes surrounding Hubbard County that are infested. Goodrich also shared Hubbard County has a proactive action plan in place, in the event a lake becomes infested. Goodrich pointed to resorts as a potential problem, particularly with unstaffed access points. A healthy lake has a healthy shoreline with an adequate vegetative buffer, Goodrich says.

Chip Nielson, pastor of RiversideUnited Methodist Church, closed out the evening by challenging the faith community to include AIS prevention talks as part of the church announcements in an effort to keep people up to speed and more aware.