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One in five Minnesota boaters broke invasive species law in 2013

ST. PAUL — The number of Minnesota boaters who violated state regulations on transporting invasive species dropped in 2013 compared to 2012, but one in five boaters who were checked still violated state law.

That was the report Friday from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which is gearing up for another season of checking boaters as they trailer their craft overland.

The goal is to get people to stop inadvertently allowing aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels, spiny water fleas and Eurasian water milfoil from infested lakes and rivers to reach uninfested waters.

The 20 percent violation rate is down from 31 percent, nearly one in three boaters, checked and issued citations by conservation officers in 2012.

“The decrease is good news, but we have a long way to go,” said Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division assistant director. “We need to think zero.”

State law prohibits transporting any invasive species and requires anglers to make sure they fully drain their boat of water before trailering a watercraft; not transport bait water between lakes; and not allow weeds to hang on their trailers. The rules require boaters to remove the bilge plug from their boat on every overland trip.

“Far too many people are still not following the law,” Smith said. “Boaters and anglers are legally required to clean boats and equipment and drain all water to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.”

DNR officials say they will increase inspection efforts during the 2014 open water season, when it finally arrives.

According to the DNR report released Friday:

•DNR watercraft inspectors conducted 123,000 inspections in 2013, up 62 percent since 2011.

• More than 1,000 businesses that operate in and out of waterways, such as marinas and dock removal services, have received aquatic invasive species training and permits.

• The DNR’s invasive species advisory committee began conversations with boat manufacturers on changing boat designs so that boats drain water more effectively.

• The DNR worked with the Iowa DNR to install an electric barrier on Lower Gar Lake in Iowa to help prevent the migration of Asian carp into southwestern Minnesota.

Among the most common violations last year, where the DNR had inspectors on hand:

• Nearly 8,000 boats arrived at landings with drain plugs in.

• More than 1,200 had vegetation attached.

• 134 had actual zebra mussels attached.

“The public is our first line of defense against AIS,” said Ann Pierce, DNR section manager. “It only takes a few minutes to make sure your boat and equipment are cleaned, all water is drained and drain plugs are removed before leaving the water access”

Enforcement and inspection together represent the largest segment, 43 percent, of the DNR’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program’s annual 2013 budget of about $8.5 million.

Forum News Service

Forum News Service

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