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Boat-cleaning stations installed at 7 Beltrami County lakes to combat spread of invasive species

This fishing season, boaters in Beltrami County will notice new boat-cleaning stations at public accesses in the area, with a goal to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species like starry stonewort.

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A boat-cleaning station, with the purpose of helping boaters prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, is installed on May 3, 2022, at the Big Turtle Lake boat access.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — This fishing season, boaters in Beltrami County will notice new boat-cleaning stations at public accesses in the area, with a goal to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species like starry stonewort.

Funded by the 2021 House and Senate Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates is set to install these boat cleaning stations at each lake in the state that is affected by starry stonewort.

In Beltrami County, seven stations were installed at boat accesses at affected lakes, including Big Turtle Lake, Lake Beltrami, Wolf Lake, Cass Lake, Moose Lake, Pimushe Lake, and Upper Red Lake at West Wind Resort.

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Seven boat-cleaning stations were recently installed at boat accesses in Beltrami County that have infestations of the invasive species starry stonewort.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Bruce Anspach, aquatic invasive species lakes technician for Beltrami County Environmental Services, said these stations could help reduce the starry stonewort issue in the area.

“It’s very nice to have these so people can have better tools to stop the spread of starry stonewort,” Anspach said. “These are the tools that boaters will need at the access in order to make sure that their watercraft is OK to transport to another water body if they don’t find anything attached to the boat.”

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While Anspach recommends a more thorough decontamination process for those who find invasive species attached to their boats, he believes the boat cleaning stations will prevent infested water from being transferred to new lakes.

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A boat-cleaning station, with the purpose of helping boaters prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, is installed on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at the Big Turtle Lake boat access.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Each station includes a couple of tools to help people clean off their boats, including a vacuum and air hose.

“You can vacuum up any excess water because you don’t want water being transported, Anspach said. “With the air hose, you can blow out any residual water.”
The stations are also equipped with lights, so late-night anglers will be able to clean off their boats with ease.

“It can be hard to clean, drain and dry your watercraft in the middle of the night if you can’t see if there are any plants (on the boat),” Anspach said. “(The station) has lights on it, which is really nice because we have a lot of boaters at night and there’s no light out here.”

Starry stonewort's effects

Starry stonewort is relatively new to the area. Discovered in Minnesota in 2015, the seaweed-like algae grows in tall, dense mats and is often transported between water bodies by attaching to boat propellers or the side of a watercraft.

The dangers of starry stonewort range from ecological harm to the reduction of Minnesota’s lake-based tourism.

When the species starts growing, Anspach said, it can affect the recreational use of the lake. Because starry stonewort grows in dense mats, boats have difficulty making it through infested water.

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Bruce Anspach, aquatic invasive species lakes technician for Beltrami County Environmental Services, helps install a boat-cleaning station on May 3, 2022, at the Big Turtle Lake boat access.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“Starry stonewort, when it grows, takes up the whole water column,” Anspach explained. “It can grow down about 24 feet, so fish can’t use it and people can’t boat through it.”

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For anglers, starry stonewort is bad news because the invasive algae negatively affects the ecosystem of a lake. An infestation of starry stonewort effectively “removes all the habitat for any fish bigger than your pinkie finger,” Anspach said.

A future where Minnesotans are unable to use lakes for recreation, Bruce hopes, is one that can be prevented if boaters take precautions to help stop the spread of invasive species.

In addition to boat-cleaning stations, free watercraft decontamination services are available during the summer months in Beltrami County.

To set up a watercraft decontamination appointment, call (218) 760-8519. To locate decontamination sites in Minnesota, visit www.mndnr.gov/decon .

Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a 2020 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Mass Communication, with minors in writing and design. In her free time, she likes watching hockey, doing crossword puzzles and being outside.
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