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Zebra Mussels, and how to control their spread, was among the topics discussed by Otter Tail County residents during a recent invasive species informational meeting. Tom Hintgen/FOCUS

As the weather warms, AIS remains a hot topic

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Aquatic invasive species may be here to stay, but hopefully they can be controlled in lakes and rivers throughout Otter Tail County.

That was the theme of a gathering at the Dalton Community Center April 22, where Nathan Olson of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provided up-to-date information on aquatic invasive species in Otter Tail County and beyond.

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“The key is training, enforcement and education,” said Olson.

Fishermen need to clean visible aquatic plants from watercraft and trailers before transporting their gear from lake to lake. They also need to drain water from livewells before leaving water accesses.

Bill Kalar of the Otter Tail County Land and Resource Department, who heads the Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force, said summer employees will be out in force to monitor lake accesses for boats throughout the county.

Attendees included people from throughout the county, including county commissioners John Lindquist and Wayne Johnson, and Jeff Stabnow of the Otter Tail County Coalition of Lake Associations.

Invasive species are species that are not native to Minnesota and cause economic and/or environmental harm and harm to human health. Olson praised organizations that are working to prevent the transport of Zebra Mussels, Eurasian Milfoil and other aquatic invasives.

Byssal threads of the Zebra Mussels, said Olson and Kalar, secrete a powerful glue. This enables the mussels to form dense colonies on rocks, metal, plastic, concrete, pipes, rope, boats, motors and other submerged objects.

Sizes of Zebra Mussels are relatively small, up to two inches long. Swimmers often experience minor cuts while walking in shallow areas of lakes that are infested with Zebra Mussels.

Olson and others at the gathering said the key to success in controlling invasive species is to get everyone on board. This includes fishermen, bait shops, resorts and those who want to do their part in preserving lakes in Otter Tail County and throughout the Upper Midwest.

“We need to do our part in preserving Otter Tail County as a tourist trade area,” said Commissioner Lindquist.

Commissioner Johnson pointed out that Otter Tail County is home to more than 1,000 lakes, and added that the county board’s financial investment to fight invasives is one of the biggest commitments of any county in Minnesota.

The county’s Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force is partnering with area lake associations to pursue grant applications to the DNR.

The DNR has trained invasive species staff to implement new inspections and operate newly purchased decontamination (boat washing) units. The portable decontamination units are capable of spraying 160-degree water at high pressure.

Tom Hintgen, Otter Tail County Correspondent

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