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Lake saved from AIS twice last year

Big Mantrap Lake is one of the premier spots in Hubbard County. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

BY Sarah smith

Big Mantrap Lake narrowly escaped being contaminated – twice – in 2012, according to a new report compiled by Hubbard County’s watercraft inspectors.

The county’s premier pristine lake was saved from Eurasian water milfoil and curly leaf pondweed in 2012 by an alert watercraft inspector.

Both boat owners knew they’d been in contaminated waters before launching into Hubbard County lakes, said Julie Kingsley, district manager of Hubbard County’s Soil and Water Conservation District. That office has overseen the county’s efforts to protect the 340 lakes housed within Hubbard County’s borders.

“They acted totally surprised,” Kingsley told the Hubbard County board Tuesday.

Near misses are scary.

But thanks to proactive efforts from a consortium of governments, lake associations, townships and other contributors, “We are ahead of the curve,” Kingsley said.

Efforts to inspect vulnerable public access points got a big boost in 2012 when a dozen lakes signed up and financed, through various public and private monies, to have their lakes inspected for aquatic invasive species. More than $86,000 was raised.

In 2013, 15 lakes will participate. Both Park Rapids and Hubbard County will contribute, $2,000 and $35,000 respectively.

“We are expecting a budget of $100,000,” the annual report notes of 2013.

Before 2012, many lakes, including Big Mantrap, were policing their waters with volunteers.

The 2012 aim was educational, not necessarily punitive.

Seven calls were placed to law enforcement, four for AIS violations, one for drunken boating and two who tried to evade inspectors.

This year the county might not be so forgiving. But it will add two decontamination stations to its arsenal, Kingsley said.

The stakes are too high.

“We all have to be more vigilant,” Kingsley said. “We need more trailer inspections.”

In 2012 more than 7,100 trailer inspections were conducted in Hubbard County. Of those boats, 555 had vegetation attached, which is illegal under Minnesota law.

Weekends were the busiest times, when armies of anglers fish area lakes.

Watercraft surveys found that anglers from 29 states visited Hubbard County waters.

Although no boats were denied access, many had live wells full of water, which is also illegal.

Kingsley related the story of one angler with 55 gallons of water in his live wells. He was asked to dispose of the water and scrub his wells out with bleach before launching.

Hubbard County is still protecting its lakes, while neighboring Becker County is in full containment mode. 

But because watercraft inspectors aren’t out 24/7, the Hubbard County numbers are low. The computer storing the information crashed and two weeks of data was lost.

One inspector was fired after being found drunk on the job, so all of his findings are now in question. The annual report recommends more oversight of inspectors.

The goal in 2013 is to get the Crow Wing lakes to participate so all watershed districts in the county are covered.

Kingsley said she hopes the vigilance and education pays off.

Inspectors will be on the job by opening weekend May 12 and have a presence during the Governors Fishing Opener the following weekend.

Sarah Smith

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

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