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Invasives task force looks to boat decontamination

Spencer McGrew. Courtesy photo.1 / 2
Use of hot, high-pressure water to decontaminate boats and other equipment can stop the spread of invasive species in Otter Tail County. Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR.2 / 2

The Otter Tail County Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Task Force continues to take a proactive approach in stopping the spread of invasives throughout the county.

The task force, always looking for new ways to help fulfill its goal to limit the spread of AIS in Otter Tail County, is looking to expand its effort with decontamination of boats, motors, trailers and other water-related equipment.

The AIS Task Force, with approval of the county board of commissioners on May 2, set in motion plans to expand decontamination from one station to three stations. This will be done on a rotating basis among the 134 public lake accesses.

"We'll work in association with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for permanent decontamination units in the county," said Spencer McGrew, Otter Tail County's Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force Specialist.

State funding will be available to help the AIS control partnership expand in future months.

"The AIS partnership between Otter Tail County and the DNR is the first of its kind in the state of Minnesota," said McGrew.

Bernie Steeves, AIS Task Force chairman, told county commissioners that AIS is a serious problem, in light of tourism providing a strong economic benefit to Otter Tail County.

"Decontamination is not the silver bullet," said Steeves, also active with county lake associations. "However, it's one of the many tools that we need to stop the spread of AIS."

He and McGrew say that Otter Tail County has an opportunity to stay ahead of Starry Stonewort, a serious weed that is approaching area lakes.

"Starry Stonewort, like Eurasian Milfoil, grows into dense mats than can cover surfaces of shallow water," said McGrew, "squeezing out other plants and creating a wall between fish and their spawning grounds."

Steeves says the goal should be "No watercraft enters a lake or river in Otter Tail County without being clean."

More about boat decontamination

The Minnesota DNR encourages the use of hot, high-pressure water to decontaminate boats and other equipment in order to stop the spread of invasive species.

Otter Tail County and other counties, through use of decontamination, can kill, remove and flush to the extent possible all visible zebra mussels, aquatic plants and infested water.

The hot water kills the AIS and the high pressure removes them. The recommendation from the DNR is to use 140-degree water at high pressure (2,500 psi) to decontaminate boats, motors, trailers and other water-related equipment.

AIS Task Force goals

Spencer McGrew, a native of Rollag, Minn., was hired a little more than a year ago as Otter Tail County's first Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force Specialist.

County Land and Resource Director Bill Kalar and Marsha Bowman of the Land and Resource office have served as technical advisors since the inception of the AIS Task Force in 2013.

Over the years the county AIS Task Force has taken a proactive approach to stopping the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels throughout the county.

The task force emphasizes that boaters and fishermen throughout the county, residents and visitors alike, have the responsibility to inspect boats, trailers and equipment and remove visible aquatic plants.

The county board and AIS Task Force are in agreement to try and work closely with area lake associations in efforts to control the spread of invasive species. Taking a lead, in coordination with the task force, is the Otter Tail County Coalition of Lake Associations.

"We also appreciate assistance from the county board, sheriff office and volunteers who work with AIS education and outreach, particularly Jerry Horgen," said McGrew.

AIS signs have been placed near public boat accesses.

Before leaving a lake, fishermen are required to drain water from boats, motors and livewells. Boat owners also are urged to perform water draining away from boat ramps.

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