MINNETONKA, Minn. (WCCO) — From early in the morning until late at night, a vigilant Nate Beaver goes down the checklist. He’s one of the many Department of Natural Resources boat ramp inspectors doing their best to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
“A lot of people on different lakes that aren’t infested yet are worried. They’re saying, ‘we don’t want it here,’” said Beaver.
Lake Minnetonka is among the many Minnesota lakes infested with zebra mussels, which spread rapidly and attach themselves to rocks, dock piers, beaches and boat hulls. But they do most damage by plugging up intake pipes on sprinkler systems and water pipes.
This year, the state is stepping up its inspection efforts in hopes of keeping the nasty critters from spreading to unaffected lakes.
“The worst case scenario is if we find something attached to the boat we’ll run you through a decontamination unit. That will kill everything with hot water and we’ll pressure wash the boat,” said Beaver.
Besides more of these “decontamination stations,” boaters can expect to see boat inspection checkpoints pop up along Minnesota highways. DNR conservation officers will also be writing citations for anyone transports watercraft or boat trailers without taking proper steps to make sure it is free of the so called aquatic hitchhikers.
As a reminder to all boat owners of the requirements to clean hulls, pull drain plugs and empty live wells, all watercraft are required to attach a checklist sticker to the hull and trailer. Those stickers are available at all state license centers as well as all regional DNR offices. You will not be penalized for not displaying a sticker until 2014.
Boat owners like Al Freng understand why controlling the spread of aquatic invasive species is so important.
“It does a lot of damage no matter what species is there. So those lakes I go to up near International Falls are clean and I don’t want to bring anything with that we happen to have down here,” said Freng.
The DNR says the object in the campaign is that aquatic invasive species can’t be stopped by enforcement alone. They want all boat owners to take responsibility for their own watercraft in hopes Minnesota can “out mussel” the zebra.
“It’s just like making sure everything’s right when you get on the highway. I mean, it’s an extra little step, not a big deal,” added boat owner Kelcey Rund.