Spot checks for invasives turning up violations

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 17, 2012 - 9:40 PM

The first two random roadside checks of Minnesota boaters -- part of a crackdown to slow the spread of aquatic invasive species -- were held Saturday and Monday.

And more are coming.

Conservation officers stopped 16 motorists towing boats near Chisago City in Chisago County on Saturday, and issued four citations and two warnings -- a 37 percent violation rate.

On Monday, officers stopped 20 cars along Hwy. 72 in Lake of the Woods County, 17 miles south of Baudette, and issued seven citations and three warnings -- a 50 percent violation rate.

"That's not encouraging," said Jim Konrad, Department of Natural Resources enforcement chief. "We have a lot of people out there who still haven't gotten the message."

Officers checking boats for invasive species at accesses this summer have reported a 20 percent violation rate.

Nearly all of the violations in roadside checks were for failing to remove drain plugs or for transporting vegetation on boats or trailers. Those stopped were only checked for invasive species violations, officials said.

"We don't ask questions about game and fish," said Phil Meier, DNR enforcement operations manager.

The random roadside stops are a first for Minnesota's 2.3 million boaters. The checks were supposed to start earlier this season, but were delayed because of constitutional concerns by two county attorneys. The DNR has decided to go forward with the program, saying the Legislature gave the agency legal authority to conduct the checks.

The first two checks were deliberately done at times and locations where boat traffic wouldn't be heavy.

"We want to start out small to get our feet wet," Konrad said.

Signs Saturday directed motorists on Old Towne Road south of Chisago City to the Chisago Lakes Primary School parking lot for inspection. Konrad said the 10 boaters who had no violations were sent on their way in one to four minutes. The delay for those with violations was longer -- 10 to 15 minutes.

Near Baudette, all 20 boaters who were stopped had removed their bilge plugs, but three were cited for failing to remove their livewell plugs and four were cited for transporting aquatic vegetation. Three warnings were issued for transporting water. In at least one of those cases, the boaters had pulled the plug on their livewell, but all the water hadn't drained out.

"They made the effort," said Lt. Pat Znadja, but should have used a sponge to remove the rest of the water.

Doug Smith • dsmith@startribune.com

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