Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources is often cited as having the nation’s leading boating safety programs, so it’s not surprising that lawmakers there recently passed a bill to dramatically strengthen the DNR’s ability to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species in lakes. But as DNR focuses on statewide implementation of its new program, at least one local group wants to jump ahead and install locked gates on local public launching ramps!
In what may be the nation’s most aggressive action against the spread of invasive species, Minnesota’s new law calls for more thorough boat inspections and stronger regulations aimed at preventing the transportation of invasive aquatic species, especially the highly prolific zebra mussel already discovered in some Minnesota lakes.
Essentially, the new law mandates all boats and water-related equipment, including items like portable bait containers or livewells must be drained before leaving any water access. The hull drain plug must be removed and remain out until the next launching, among other precautions to prevent the transportation of invasive species. Educating boaters of their new responsibilities is a key element of the program along with accelerated inspections at access sites. Currently, DNR employs 100 seasonal watercraft inspectors who work at public accesses around the state. Funding for additional authorized inspectors was included in the bill.
Enter a local organization called the Lake Action Alliance, a group of lakeside homeowners who want to require every boater to get inspected before being allowed access to the public launch ramps on Christmas Lake and Lotus Lake. The alliance proposes locked gates at the public access ramps. Boaters wanting to use Christmas or Lotus would first have to drive to nearby Lake Minnewashta for a boat inspection by volunteers or DNR personnel. When the boat passes inspection the owner gets a free pass-code to open the gate at Christmas or Lotus.
The goal of the Alliance to prevent zebra mussels from getting into their lakes is understandable. Native to the Black and Caspian Sea, zebra mussels were first discovered in 1988 in the Canadian waters of Lake St. Clair that connects Lake Huron and Lake Erie, transported there in the ballast water of foreign ships. By 1990, the mussels had been found in all the Great Lakes and have since spread to a myriad of connecting waterways. Trailerable boats can transport zebra mussels between inland lakes. They attach to any hard surface in freshwater, including boats, rocks, pilings, water intakes and so on. Once established, their colonies cover the entire surface of the object they’re attached to.