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County to put up invasive species billboards

The Otter Tail County Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force is reinforcing its communications efforts. Tom Hintgen/FOCUS

The Otter Tail County Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force, which has a goal of stopping the spread on invasives into lakes and rivers, is expanding its public awareness programs.

At a June 5 meeting, the task force, through County Land and Resource Director Bill Kalar, received county board approval for the use of billboards.

The county board, which previously voted to transfer $50,000 from a reserve fund to the task force, has $30,000 designated to help provide boat inspections at some of the public accesses at area lakes. With $20,000 remaining in the fund, the county board approved $8,300 for use of billboards. Postcards about invasives also are in circulation.

"We need to hit the targets when it comes to communication about stopping the spread of invasive species," said County Board Chairman Lee Rogness during meeting. "This is not a one-year issue. We need the help of lake associations and members of the general public."

Kalar has brought together a county-wide and diverse group of organizations and individuals concerned with the spread of invasives to comprise the AIS Task Force. The panel includes about 20 members, headed by Kalar.

"We as a county board, through the AIS Task Force, pledge to make this a county-wide effort," said Commissioner Wayne Johnson.

County boards in both Otter Tail and Becker counties know that a zebra mussel infestation and other invasives not only have an environmental impact, but also adversely affect the quality of life in this area and tourism as well.

Those are among the reasons the Otter Tail County Board has voted to encourage the Association of Minnesota Counties to add aquatic invasive species to the legislation platform and lobby the Minnesota legislature for more state regulation and enforcement.