Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: Dennis Anderson: Undercover angler investigates invasive species security

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 3, 2012 - 1:07 AM

How much "protection" against invasive species are the state's most protected lakes receiving this summer?

I went to find out last week, visiting with my boat and trailer Lake Minnewashta and Christmas Lake, both in the west metro.

Unlike the state's other 5,491 fishable lakes, Minnewashta and Christmas are staffed nearly continuously by trained invasive species inspectors.

Both lakes also have gates limiting entry to their single public accesses, and inspectors at both accesses check boats going in, and coming out.

Carver County and the Minnehaha Creek watershed district foot the bill for county inspectors at Lake Minnewashta, while at Christmas Lake, affected homeowners and the Minnehaha watershed district cover costs of a private security firm whose Department of Natural Resources-trained inspectors staff the entrance.

Gating systems at the two lakes are similar but different.

At Minnewashta, a regional park surrounds the boat access, and entry to the park is gated. Passage is allowed by fee between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

At Christmas Lake, entry and exit gates were installed last November at a cost of about $26,000, about half of which was paid by lakeshore owners and the rest by the watershed district and the city of Shorewood.

The intent at both lakes is to keep out zebra mussels in particular, as well as other invasive species.

Boaters wanting to drop watercraft into either lake must answer questions posed by inspectors, and must also submit their boats for inspection.

The inspectors can deny access if they suspect a boat or trailer is carrying zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil or something equally evil. If necessary, the inspectors can call DNR conservation officers or other authorities to mitigate disputes or enforce laws.

Contrast those protection systems with -- for example -- the one in force this summer at Mille Lacs, where at any given time, DNR inspectors are stationed at only one or two (or none) of the lake's more than 15 public accesses.

Mille Lacs' 50-plus private accesses, meanwhile, aren't ever staffed.

Thus a question: By dint of their gated entrances and trained watercraft inspectors, are Minnewashta and Christmas more likely than other less closely monitored lakes to escape the plague of bad-news plants and animals invading Minnesota?

Or are these "inspectors," their DNR certifications notwithstanding, little more than college kids intent on working on their tans while on someone's payroll.

I took my boat and trailer to each lake to try to find out.

• • •

First stop was Minnewashta, where at the regional park's gatehouse I bought an annual visitor pass for $24, good also for Carver, Anoka and Washington county parks.

Then it was on to the lake's boat landing, where Ben Bonar, a graduate student working as a Carver County inspector, introduced himself, inquiring if he could begin his overview of my boat by asking a few questions.

I presented myself only as a boater interested in fishing Minnewashta, saying nothing about my affiliation with the Star Tribune, or that I was working on a story. "Sure," I said.

Among Bonar's first questions: "When was the boat last in the water, and where?"

My answer: White Bear Lake, less than 24 hours before.

What Bonar didn't ask was: What lakes, if any, had my boat been in during the previous five days -- the time, the DNR says, it takes an unwashed boat to "dry," killing any zebra mussels attached to it?

My answer would have been: Four days earlier, the St. Croix; three days earlier, Deer Lake, Wis.; and one day earlier, White Bear.

Otherwise, Bonar's questions about invasive species were straightforward, and he recorded my answers on a personal digital assistant (PDA) to be downloaded later into a DNR database.

Then Bonar checked my boat, and his inspection was more than a drive-by. He felt below the craft's waterline for the sandpaper-like presence of juvenile mussels, checked that the bait well and live wells were empty of water, looked at the intakes on the outboard, and otherwise gave the boat a thorough once-over.

When he was finished, I told him I didn't intend to launch the boat, and was interested only in observing the inspection process and, ultimately, writing about it for the Star Tribune.

I asked: "What if I had told you I just came from [zebra mussel-infested] Lake Minnetonka?" Bonar indicated his inspection might then have been somewhat more detailed.

"Have you denied anyone access to the lake?" I asked. Only three times, Bonar said, each to lakeshore residents who tried to launch pontoons that had been stored over the winter and were laced with dried vegetation.

I left thinking that a) Bonar did a good job and b) the DNR's list of questions, the foundation for its inspection protocol, needs amending, in part to better alert inspectors about the whereabouts of boats not just in the day previous, but the week previous, and more importantly to give policy-makers a more detailed understanding of the mobility of Minnesota boat owners -- anglers in particular.

• • •

Next stop, Christmas Lake, where I was greeted by Kian Amani, who works for Volt Workforce Solutions. Like Bonar, Amani was trained by the DNR, and he asked the same questions, recording them not on a PDA, but on paper.

Then Amani inspected my boat -- though for a long moment, I didn't think he would, settling instead only for the questions and answers. Was he thorough? Generally, yes. But not as thorough as Bonar.

Again, I told Amani I hadn't intended to launch and that I was writing a story, the central question of which would be:

Is all this effort, with gates and inspectors, worth the time and money required in the fight against invasive species?

In the end, my answer: probably, as a deterrent. But there are no guarantees, and the chances the lakes will remain mussel-free probably decrease over time, as these critters spread to more surrounding lakes.

Left unsaid in all of this is not the threat posed by traveling anglers, of whom this state has a lot. The focus instead -- or also -- should be on wakeboard boats, which are frequently moved from lake to lake, particularly in and out of Minnetonka (and Christmas Lake), and which can't be completely emptied of their ballasts, virtually guaranteeing them as possible vectors for infestation.

Meanwhile, summer unfolds and inspections continue -- more so at Minnewashta and Christmas lakes than at other waters.

Perhaps some good will result.

But don't bet on it.

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Carver County watercraft inspector Ben Bonar

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - J. Vargas 7:07 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 0 2nd Prd 13:18
San Jose 0
Boston 6:00 PM
Toronto
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Montreal
New Jersey 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Dallas 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Chicago 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Nashville
Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Florida 8:00 PM
Arizona
Washington 9:00 PM
Calgary
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 21 FINAL
Rice 41
UAB 17 FINAL
Arkansas 45
Rutgers 24 FINAL
(16) Nebraska 42
Maryland 7 FINAL
Wisconsin 52
Texas 0 FINAL
(11) Kansas State 23
Minnesota 24 FINAL
Illinois 28
Memphis 48 FINAL
SMU 10
North Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia 27
San Jose St 31 FINAL
Navy 41
Northern Ill 28 FINAL
Eastern Mich 17
(25) UCLA 31 4th Qtr 8:22
Colorado 21
Akron 21 4th Qtr 8:55
Ball State 25
Massachusetts 28 4th Qtr 6:15
Toledo 35
Ohio U 14 4th Qtr 5:46
Western Mich 35
Ga Southern 62 4th Qtr 9:33
Georgia State 31
Kent State 3 4th Qtr 11:45
Miami-Ohio 10
Oregon State 7 3rd Qtr
Stanford 28
Louisiana Tech 3 3rd Qtr
Southern Miss 7
(22) West Virginia 14 3rd Qtr
Oklahoma State 10
Michigan 3 3rd Qtr
(8) Michigan State 14
Boston College 17 3rd Qtr
Wake Forest 0
Central Mich 14 3rd Qtr
Buffalo 7
Fla Atlantic 16 2nd Qtr 0:00
(23) Marshall 14
(1) Miss State 17 2nd Qtr 0:23
Kentucky 10
Georgia Tech 28 2nd Qtr 0:11
Pittsburgh 14
Texas Tech 20 2nd Qtr 3:43
(10) TCU 31
Vanderbilt 0 2nd Qtr 4:13
Missouri 3
Old Dominion 16 2nd Qtr 10:19
Western Ky 28
UNLV 7 2nd Qtr 9:29
Utah State 10
Temple 0 1st Qtr 12:35
UCF 0
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(18) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Seattle 2
D.C. 0 2nd Half
Montreal 1
Toronto FC 6:30 PM
New England
Portland 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 7 6:30
Toronto 15
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close