Inspectors, decontamination units to be dispatched to lakes.
Just in time for ramped-up July 4 watercraft activity, conservation officials are mobilizing around the state and alerting boaters that fines will double starting Sunday for violations of Minnesota's aquatic invasive species laws.
About 140 watercraft inspectors will be stationed around the state, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also will deploy 23 decontamination units, focusing primarily on busy locales that are infested.
By the DNR's count, 20 percent of boaters are violating invasive species laws this year -- up from 18 percent last year. The laws are intended to stop the spread of zebra mussels, Eurasian water milfoil, Asian carp and other invaders, and the state has intensified its enforcement efforts.
But many boaters apparently are forgetting or ignoring requirements to drain bilges and livewells, to transport boats without drain plugs and to clean weeds off trailers. Such evidence has surfaced near Alexandria, the DNR said Thursday, where Eurasian water milfoil was discovered in Lake Le Homme Dieu.
A small patch of the plant was discovered by an angler Wednesday and verified by a DNR biologist.
Eurasian water milfoil now has been found in more than 220 lakes and eight rivers or streams in Minnesota. It can form dense mats of vegetation, crowding out native plants, and can clog boat propellers.
As for those beefed-up fines, a couple of examples: The hit for transporting watercraft or water-related equipment with aquatic plants attached will go from $50 to $100, and the fine for possessing, or transporting a prohibited invasive species, such as zebra mussels, now will be $500.
As part of its campaign, the DNR will demonstrate how to clean and drain a boat to prevent the movement of invasive species in this state of 2.3 million boaters. The demonstrations are being staged at Lake Minnetonka's Gray's Bay, McQuade Harbor in Duluth, Lake Washington near Mankato and Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board unanimously approved an emergency resolution last week that will require boats entering its lakes to be inspected, and calls for chaining off boat launches during weekday afternoons and other times when inspectors aren't present.
The new rules go beyond state law, which doesn't require boat checks unless an inspector is there.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482