July 13, 2017 07:10 PM
Eyes will be focused on a first-of-its-kind program in Minnesota designed to fight aquatic invasive species in area lakes.
The pilot project is being tested on four lakes in Wright County: East and West Lake Sylvia, Lake John and Pleasant Lake.
As part of the program, everything must be inspected and decontaminated before it's allowed into the water.
Chris Hector lives on West Lake Sylvia and is president of the Greater Lake Sylvia Association.
Just down the shoreline from his home, at the public access, he said starry stonewort, an aquatic invasive species, was found.
Starry stonewort is a fast-growing, thick invasive weed that can take over larges portions of lakes.
Currently, inspectors are posted at 28 of the county's 57 lake accesses. There is also a decontamination unit in Annandale.
Boats on trailers come through the decontamination site and are hosed down with scalding hot water, removing weeds and killing invasive species.
But right now, decontamination is not mandatory in Wright County. Nor are inspections.
If the new program gets DNR approval, though, they will be to enter four of the county's most popular lakes.
"Part of the idea here is to bring all of the boaters to one location, so everyone gets inspected," said Alicia O'Hare with the Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District. "Then we only have to check accesses for proof of inspection."
That proof consists of a receipt of inspection left in your vehicle, and a zip tie that serves as a seal which would be attached to your trailer and boat.
"Once you get to the access you can break the seal," O'Hare said. "And we have a drop box that you put the seal into, and an inspector would come around periodically and check the number on the seal with the number on your receipt in your vehicle's dash. If either are missing the inspector would call the sheriff."
A violation would be a misdemeanor.
Water experts, Hector included, are watching - hoping this works when it comes to preventing the spread of invasives.
"It makes much more sense to put that scarce resource, the inspectors, in a central location and have the boaters use that facility on their way to the lake," he said.
Hector said while it would also be nice to have boats decontaminated once they come out of infected lakes - like Lake Sylvia - that's not an option right now.
He said this project is the first phase of a two-phased, five-year program which will cost roughly $1.7 million.
Wright County and the Greater Lake Sylvia Association are awaiting DNR approval to starting piloting the project.
Updated: July 13, 2017 07:10 PM
Created: July 13, 2017 04:05 PM
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