Beginning June 1, lake residents have an opportunity to do their part in the fight against aquatic invasive species (AIS) and be rewarded for their efforts.

Since July 2012, Minnesota law states that any boat lift, dock, swim raft, or associated equipment that has been removed from any water body may not be placed in another water body until a minimum of 21 days has passed.

Aitkin County started a program in 2019 especially for movers or sellers of docks and boat lifts.

People moving or selling those items can be rewarded $100 just for leaving a dock or boat lift out just nine extra days for a total of 30 days on land. The dock or boat lift must have been in the water in the current open water season.

The program runs each year from June 1 through Nov. 30.

“Docks and lifts can be hosts for aquatic invasive species,” said Steve Hughes, district manager of the Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation Service (SWCD). “The primary one would be zebra mussels.  Almost anything else could also be hidden in a corner or pipe:  plants, spiny water fleas, etc. Zebra mussels, for example, would be adults if attached to a dock.  Adults are more likely to survive long enough to start a new population.”

Zebra mussels adhere to all hard surfaces, including the shells of native mussels, turtles, and crustaceans. In the Midwest they have destroyed boat engines, fouled beaches, and caused damage to boat ramps and docks. Zebra mussel fecal material may also contribute to taste and odor problems in drinking water sources.

“Invasive species take the place of more beneficial native species and reduce the diversity of the plant and animal community,” noted Hughes. “They disrupt the food web by eating things that should be eaten by some fish higher up in the chain, this impacts the entire system. Invasive species can clog water intakes, boating channels, boat fittings, etc. When invasive species die off in large numbers they can greatly reduce the oxygen in the water and cause fish kills.”

Leaving docks or lifts that are for sale or relocation on dry ground the extra days makes it more likely that these pests don’t survive.

REWARD PROGRAM

Here’s how the program works:

• When someone elects to participate in a county reward program, SWCD staff  members will photograph the item and tag it with the date.

• Thirty days later, the photographer will return to photograph the same item and remove the tag when the owner signs a statement indicating the item was out at least 30 days. That program participant is given $100.

For details on the reward program, contact Hughes at 218-927-7284.

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