You may not always know where you are, but your phone does. By now, most of us have noticed that our smart phones are extremely effective at tracking our whereabouts. Open a map application, and a pin automatically appears creeping slowly along the road where you are driving. Use the internet to search for a hardware store and the phone will list web links, maps and phone numbers for the three closest to you. Beginning this summer, you might even be surprised to find your phone giving you a reminder as you pull into a local boat launch – clean your boat, before and after getting on the water, to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
Aquatic invasive species are plants and animals, not native to Minnesota, that threaten the health of our rivers, lakes and streams and cause millions of dollars of problems for local communities. Well known invasives include zebra mussels, carp, Eurasian watermilfoil, and curly-leaf pondweed. Once introduced to a body of water, they typically spread quickly and are expensive and nearly impossible to remove. To prevent the spread of aquatic invasives, the law requires all boaters to clean and drain boats, trailers and other equipment after coming out of the water, and to dispose of unwanted bait, including minnows, in the trash.
Last year, the Minnesota Legislature allocated funding to counties to implement aquatic invasive prevention and education activities. Washington County was allotted $202,392, which they have passed through to several local entities for projects in 2015, including herbicide treatment of invasive Eurasian watermilfoil in Big Marine, Long, Jane, Demontreville and Olson Lakes, herbicide treatment and cutting of flowering rush on Forest Lake, and watercraft inspectors to monitor boat launches and water access points during summer boating and fall waterfowl hunting. In addition, the Washington Conservation District is working with partners to improve signage at popular boat launches and educate boaters and waterfowl hunters about what they can do to prevent the spread of aquatic invasives. That’s where the telephone location technology comes in handy.
Public service announcements are being targeted to mobile devices near popular water bodies in the county to catch the attention of visitors, as well as local residents. If you check the weather while you’re out fishing on Big Marine Lake, you might see a banner ad urging you to “Save the fish..and then eat them.” Click to confirm, “Yes – I cleaned my boat today,” and you’ll be directed to a webpage with information about aquatic invasive species and a list of infested water bodies in the county. Taking it one step further, people can even upload a picture to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #SavetheFishMN to help spread the word and be entered into a contest with prizes from local businesses.
In addition to funding immediate actions to address the threat of aquatic invasives, Washington County is also supporting the St. Croix River Association, which recently hired a full-time invasive species coordinator and is working with governmental and community partners in Minnesota and Wisconsin to create an aquatic invasive species plan for the entire St. Croix River Basin. The plan will include detailed strategies for prevention; research and monitoring; control of new and existing infestations; and evaluation.
If you like fishing, boating, swimming or hunting on local lakes and rivers and you want to be part of the resistance force working to block aquatic invasives you can do three simple things: 1) Clean, drain and dry your boat and equipment before and after getting on the water; 2) Help spread the word to friends and family – #SavetheFishMN; and, 3) Come to a public meeting hosted by the St. Croix River Association on Thursday, July 9, 4-6pm in the Washington County Government Center in Stillwater, Lower Level room 14, to share your ideas and input about aquatic invasives in the St. Croix Basin.
For more information about aquatic invasive species in Minnesota, go to http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/aquatic.