Piling On

After their discovery this summer, the shock of zebra mussels in Lake Minnetonka has diminished. And while the full impacts of zebra mussel in our lake are yet to come, we must now turn our attention and prevention efforts to the other aquatic invasive species (AIS) that are coming our way.

The Minnesota Invasive Species Advisory Council has identified these AIS that are in Minnesota or are expected to be in Minnesota that represent a serious threat:

Plants – Brazilian waterweed, Brittle naiad, European frog-bit, Giant salvinia, Hardy hybrid water lily, Hydrilla, Phragmites, Salt-cedar, Water chestnut, Water hyacinth, Water lettuce, Yellow iris. Animals -Asian carp (bighead, black, grass, silver), Faucet snail, Mute swan, Mystery snails (Chinese, Japanese, banded), New Zealand mud snail, Northern snakehead, Quagga mussel, Round goby, Ruffe, Rusty crayfish, Sea lamprey, Spiny waterflea. Pathogens – viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS).

Lake Minnetonka is already home to these unwanted invaders: Common carp, curlyleaf pondweed, Eurasian watermilfoil, Flowering rush, zebra mussel and largemouth bass virus. Of these, only two species – milfoil and curlyleaf pondweed – are even attempted to be controlled or managed.

I have worked on lake issues around the country for over thirty years and in my opinion AIS issues and their impacts to lakes represent the most profound pollution challenge we have yet seen. As bad as lake pollution concerns were in the 1960s (remember ‘Lake Erie is dead’ ?), at least these impacts were reversed. With AIS, the impacts are permanent and accumulate as each new species is added to a lake.

From the list above, three species are of immediate concern:

Spiny waterflea – a small animal (about 3/8-inch long) that has a spiny tail that clings to fishing lines, anchor ropes and other equipment. Spiny waterflea reproduces rapidly and produces eggs that are resistant to drying. In addition to being a nuisance for anglers and boaters, this animal feeds at the base of the food chain, thereby robbing fish of their food base. Spiny waterflea are in Mille Lacs Lake and Lake Minnetonka is frequently visited by boaters from Mille Lacs.

VHS – a virus that causes fish kills en masse. VHS has caused large-scale mortality in black crappie, bluegill, freshwater drum, muskellunge and yellow perch and has also been confirmed to have caused kills of smallmouth bass and walleye. VHS is transported in contaminated fish and contaminated water and equipment. VHS is in Lake Superior.

Hydrilla – an invasive plant that is so aggressive, it has been known to out-compete milfoil. Hydrilla spreads rapidly and is difficult to control. Hydrilla has been found in Wisconsin and has been established in northern Indiana.

The Lake Minnetonka Association is extremely concerned about these (and other) new AIS because:

1) Each new invasion brings its own impacts plus the combined impacts with AIS already in the lake.
2) The inspections we had on Lake Minnetonka before the discovery of zebra mussel last year were not adequate in the first place – only about a quarter of incoming boats at public launches were inspected.
3) When zebra mussels were discovered in Lake Minnetonka, a significant amount of the planned inspections for incoming boats was either discontinued or re-directed to outgoing boats, leaving Lake Minnetonka more exposed.
4) We had become so focused on preventing zebra mussel that we had minimized the threat of other new AIS.

As additional AIS are introduced into Lake Minnetonka, their impacts will not just be additive, they will be synergetic. Simply, this means that one plus one will not equal two, it will equal three or even more. The fancy ecological term for this is the ecosystem will have less integrity and we risk undoing many years of positive clean up. In real terms, Lake Minnetonka will become less clean and less habitable for fish and wildlife.

Like it or not, zebra mussels are here to stay, but let’s not let down our guard.

Let’s let this awful lesson guide us and compel us to protect Lake Minnetonka from the next onslaught.

Lake Minnetonka Association, Dick Osgood

Action is needed on invasive species

By: West Central Tribune of Willmar, DL-Online

Kandiyohi County Commissioner Dennis Peterson is very concerned about the issue of invasive species and area lakes.

Peterson is frustrated about the lack of action by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Legislature on the invasive issue around the state.

Peterson and other Kandiyohi County commissioners are correct to be concerned.

Zebra mussels were found recently in lakes in the Alexandria area of Douglas County. That area is very close to Kandiyohi County. Peterson reported Tuesday that property values on those lakes have already dropped 30 percent.

If zebra mussels are not stopped from invading Green Lake and other county lakes, there will be a corresponding decline of real values on Kandiyohi County lakes. The same thing can happen in other counties in the region. This will, in turn, have an impact on every other property owner — homeowner or business.

A 30 percent decline on Green Lake and other county lake property would have a significant impact on the Kandiyohi County tax base.

As some property owners on county lakes have been saying, the threat of zebra mussels and other invasive species is not just an issue for lake property owners.

While Green Lake and other lake property owners in the county have been investing funding in prevention of the spread of invasive species into Kandiyohi County, their efforts only go so far. More significant and organized efforts are needed to prevent the spread of invasive species into Kandiyohi County.

Interested Kandiyohi County citizens are encouraged to attend a meeting at 1 p.m. Friday at the Douglas County Library in Alexandria, hosted by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

We commend Peterson, the rest of the County Board and Green Lake and other lake property owners for their efforts thus far in preventing invasive species, especially zebra mussels, so far in Kandiyohi County.

The time has come for all Kandiyohi County citizens to recognize the danger of invasive species, especially zebra mussels. We must speak up and call for quicker action and better efforts in the battle against invasive species by DNR officials and the Legislature. — West Central Tribune of Willmar

Sad News – Zebra Mussels in Our Lake – What Do We Need to Know and What should We Be Doing Now?

Everybody by now probably knows that zebra mussels have been found in Lake Minnetonka. I and everybody else who loves Lake Minnetonka hoped this day would never come. It is truly sad news for everyone. But, now that they are here, what next?

As of now, it appears the infestation is limited to Grays and Wayzata Bay and the Lower Lake south to Big Island. All appearances are that we are very early in the infestation. Crews from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District have and will continue to monitor the lake and more up-to-date information will be available in the weeks to come. The DNR will have a special page on their website dedicated to the Lake Minnetonka zebra mussel situation 9search ‘zebra mussel’).

Also as of this time, the agencies are exploring whether any kind of containment may be possible. The Lake Minnetonka Association will work with the agencies to explore all options. Again, more information will be forthcoming in the next month or two.

Typically, zebra mussel populations expand very slowly for the first two or three years, then multiply explosively.

Given this assessment and the way zebra mussel populations typically expand, I would expect the full impacts may take two to four years to be realized.

Zebra mussels will encrust hard surfaces – hard or firm lake bottoms, boat hulls, mooring buoys, inside mechanisms in boat motors, water toys, docks and lifts. Here are some precautions that should be taken.

At the end of the day, unfortunately, zebra mussels will be in Lake Minnetonka forever. So, we must learn to cope with them.

What should boaters and lakeshore owners do?

1. When swimming or wading, wear protective footwear to minimize cutting your feet, as zebra mussel shells are razor-sharp.

2. Remove irrigation intakes from the water and drain completely when not in use, as the immature forms will encrust the intakes and pipes.

3. If possible, keep your boat and motor completely out of water (when not in use) to minimize the encrustation of zebra mussels.

4. If it is not possible to store your boat out of water, contact a marina to inquire about protective paints and annual maintenance.

5. Run you boats long enough to reach operating temperatures. The immature zebra mussels are very sensitive to heat, so a hot engine will kill them as they are flushed through the cooling system. Drain all water reservoirs after each use.

6. Help prevent the spread to other lakes and rivers. If you take your boat out of Lake Minnetonka, thoroughly clean your boat and trailer inside and out and let it dry for at least five days. Scrape off any encrustations, wash with high pressure, hot water (120 degrees), then drain and dry all water reservoirs.

7. If you sell used docks, structures or water toys, be sure they are decontaminated and cleaned before they leave the area.

We expect zebra mussels will affect the overall health of the lake and the fisheries. As the infestation develops, agencies charged with managing Lake Minnetonka’s environmental health – MN DNR and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District – will be reporting to the community.

I am saddened by this news, as I know all of you are as well. The Lake Minnetonka Association remains committed to being advocates for AIS prevention. While zebra mussels are here, there are dozens of other invasive plants, animals and pathogens coming toward of Lake Minnetonka.

Lake Minnetonka Association, Dick Osgood

Mussel power

USFWS comes to the aid of a pair of Minn. mussels

By Brian S. Peterson

Outdoors Editor

In these parts, freshwater mussels often conjure up images of invasives, infestations and lake devastation. And that’s understandable. In October, zebra mussels were found in Gull Lake, and Brainerd’s best-known lake was designated as infested waters.

It was the second time in less than four months that zebra mussels were discovered in a popular Minnesota lake. In July, the DNR found them in Lake Minnetonka.

But not all mussels are bad. In fact, nearly all freshwater mussels are a positive for Minn

Senator vows to deal with mussels

By: Amy Chaffins, Alexandria Echo Press

State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen was in Alexandria Friday for an environmental issues meeting and it was aquatic invasive species – specifically zebra mussels – that took center stage.

Ingebrigtsen assured local members of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership that dealing with aquatic invasive species is one of his priorities, and, he said, he intends to direct legislation on the issue.

“It’s a serious issue that can’t wait until another session,” he said.

Ingebrigtsen is chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Plus, he sits on the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council – the Outdoor Heritage Fund is one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and it receives one-third of the money raised by a sales tax increase.

“There is funding available to deal with this,” Ingebrigtsen said Friday. “That means some projects will have to be put on hold, there has to be some prioritization.”

Bonnie Huettl, president of the Douglas County Lakes Association (DCLA), said, “I think [the meeting] went well and I think he got the message. Now we have to see what happens.”

Members of several lake associations from across Douglas County also attended Friday’s closed-door meeting with Ingebrigtsen; one of their specific concerns is zebra mussel containment.

To contain them, Huettl said, the DCLA would like to see state funds used to close, or monitor, boat accesses to all infested lakes in the area.

“That way, boats coming out do not spread the mussels,” Huettl said.

Local lakes, known to be infested, with zebra mussels include: L’Homme Dieu, Carlos, Geneva, Victoria, Darling, Jessie and Alvin.

Commentary – Time is now to stop zebra mussels

By Bonnie Huettl, Alexandria, MN

We must stop the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS), namely zebra mussels (ZM), in Minnesota waters and contain the spread from infested waters until an antidote is found, and we must do it now. The issue has been around since 1989 in Minnesota and the attitude of the DNR has been to not inform the public of the devastation zebra mussels can cause. They were not prepared to move forward with anything other than education (collateral) and signage while other states have programs in place. How sad! We can change that.

A grassroots movement has been started to make some swift and effective changes as to how the infested lakes are accessed. A meeting was held on Friday, February 4 with Senator Ingebrigtsen to let him know how important the issue is and to carry forward the message to the Legislature that citizens want something done now. More than 75 people attended this meeting so there is support here in Alexandria as well as other parts of the state. He got the message.

The DNR will make a presentation to the Senate Environment and Natural Resource Committee, which is planned for February 10 and Senator Ingebrigtsen chairs that committee. Their presentation will likely be similar to what was presented to the House Environment and Natural Resource Committee, which primarily outlined AIS prevention ideas from stakeholder meetings. The House chair, Representative Denny McNamara, directed comments to the DNR, telling them to put together a plan to stop the spread of AIS in the state of Minnesota and bring it back to this committee. Many funding options have been identified as possibilities, ranging from LCCMR (lottery) to Clean Water Funds, which became available in 2008 when Minnesotans voted in favor of The Clean Water Act. To this point, none of that money has been used to protect Minnesota lakes from such nasty invasives.

We can only hope that the DNR and legislators quickly agree on a plan that will boldly address the spread of zebra mussel infested waters by fishing opener. Yes, this will alter the way we use the lakes but so will the invasives. Change is difficult for some but change is what must happen.

The target for the “Band-Aid” plan is opening fishing 2011. Aggressive, yes, but we have lost precious time educating while they are spreading. To learn more about mussels, visit www.dclamn.org.