The Hubbard County Board authorized the watercraft decontamination station to operate without certified inspectors this summer.

As a courtesy to the public, the Hubbard County AIS Program operates a free decontamination station, located at 812 Henrietta Ave. S., Park Rapids. Normally available seven days a week by appointment, it has been temporarily closed.

Environmental Services Department (ESO) Officer Eric Buitenwerf explained Tuesday that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) delegates inspection authority to the ESO. “They are required, per our delegation agreement by statute, to provide us with the training they require so that we can have certified inspectors. For whatever reason this year, they have chosen to not provide training for new Level II inspectors. That is the level required to operate a pressure washer at a decontamination station.”

Buitenwerf said he spoke with the county attorney about the greater liability: “Running a decontamination station with a non-certified individual or not having a decontamination station at all this season.”

The nearest decon station is in Bemidji and the next nearest is in northern St. Louis County, he noted.

Buitenwerf said if an angler goes to an area lake and an AIS inspector discovers an invasive species on the watercraft and says a decontamination is needed, that will not be a viable option. “They’ll just drive down the road, wait until they’re out of eyesight and go find another lake where there isn’t an inspector present. So that’s the practicality we’re considering trying to avoid,” he said.

Board chair Char Christenson gave her “full support” to operate without certification. “We all know that an economic driver is our lakes. We need to protect however we need to protect.”

The board unanimously agreed.

Call 218-252-6738 ahead of time to make a decontamination appointment. A typical decontamination is about 15 minutes.