Minnesota is facing nearly two-dozen aquatic invasive species. And one of the key problems is the people who frequent the water.
People are a big reason the invasive species are being spread, said Keri Hull, watercraft inspection supervisor at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Hull spoke Monday night at the Brainerd Public Library on the issues residents face in preventing the spread of the invasive species and what the DNR is doing to enforce the control efforts.
Another speaker included Phil Hunsicker, president of the Lakes and Rivers Alliance.
The League of Women Voters of the Brainerd Lakes area sponsored the event.
Aquatic invasive species are plants and animals in the water not native to the state, which can upset the ecological balance. Most common are zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and Asian carp.
The problem comes when water-lovers bring the invasive species to once healthy bodies of water through boats, releasing fish in lakes they don’t belong and the aquatic plant trade.
Some species, like zebra muscles, reproduce quickly and compete with native species for food and habitat. Within a few years, a body of water can be infested.
It’s against Minnesota law to transport these invasive species.
The Minnesota DNR is working to control the problem through initiatives like the Watercraft Inspection Program, which Hull runs.
Inspectors in the program go on-site and check the boats coming out of the water for invasive species. Some inspectors use high-pressure cleaning trucks to filter out the water or clean the boats that are infested. The water reaches 160 degrees, which kills the zebra muscles, and the high pressure pushes them off the unit. The process takes up to 15 minutes.
Last year, two cleaning trucks were stationed in Brainerd, going out each day of the week for 10 hours. Two other trucks traveled the Aitkin and Mille Lacs areas.
Most of the people are cooperative with the cleaning trucks, Hull said. But there are some who don’t want their boat cleaned.
Some people don’t see the harm in letting the species get into the lake, she said. Others say fish like that habitat or argue it may be ducks transporting the invasive species.
The best strategy in easing the problem is through regulation and enforcements, Hull said.
Fines have been double in recent years, more public awareness has been spread and signs go up near the lakes that have been infected.
Still, there is a lot more work to do, she said.
“It’s amazing how many behaviors we need to change to get a hold of this stuff,” he said.