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Turtle River Watershed Association members to inspect boats at two Bemidji area lake accesses

TURTLE RIVER – Members of the Turtle River Watershed Association (TRWA) plan to be at the public access on Big Turtle Lake and Lake Beltrami this weekend educating boaters about the proper techniques and the importance of thorough boat and trailer inspections.

“This is a new adventure for us and it is unique to have members of a lake watershed association volunteer to do boat inspections,” said association member Robert Thompson. “We have about 70 public boat accesses in Beltrami County and the DNR doesn’t have the funding to be at every access. So we thought we would help out.”

The TRWA volunteers plan to be at those two accesses from 6 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. They have completed the DNR aquatic invasive species (AIS) education classes and the goal is to transfer what they learned at those classes to the boaters.

“We’re not into enforcement and we have no enforcement authority,” Thompson said. “The DNR effort concentrates on education and that’s what we will be doing as well.”

During the winter TRWA chairman Ralph Morris presented a resolution to the Beltrami County Board calling for a county-wide task force to develop a plan to deal with AIS in the county.

That resolution spawned a work group which listed the county lakes which are at the highest risk of being affected by aquatic invasive species.

The list, according to Thompson, included Lake Bemdji, Upper Red, the Cass Lake Chain and the Turtle River Chain.

“We are assuming that currently there are no veligers (young zebra mussels) in Big Turtle but we don’t know that for sure,” Thompson said. “Zebra mussle veligers have been found in Lake Winnie and we thought that, if we are going to be an effective watershed association, we had to do something to help prevent AIS from entering our waters. And that’s why we volunteered to do the boat inspections.”

The inspections will take a few minutes and the volunteers will target the live wells, minnow buckets and drain plugs plus the exterior of the boat, motor and trailer.

Inspectors will check boats heading onto the water as well as those leaving the access.

The association members also plan to conduct similar inspections on Big Turtle and Beltrami during the Fourth of July and Labor Day holidays.

“We will emphasize friendly education and the inspections should be a fun activity,” Thompson said. The volunteers will also serve coffee and hand out literature that will help the boaters identify the most likely AIS culprits and explain the current laws.

“We’ll be done with the inspections in less than five minutes,” Thompson said. “As a watershed we feel that doing something is better than doing nothing. But we don’t want to delay anyone or make anybody mad so we will do the inspections as quickly as possible.”

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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