Zebra mussels suspected in Argo Dam control system failure; divers on site for icy underwater work

Topics: Edward Vielmetti

Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are suspected to be the cause of erratic water flows on the Huron River downstream from the Argo Dam. A team of divers from Solomon Diving in Monroe, Michigan, are on site Tuesday morning to go under the icy waters of Argo Pond and inspect the intake pipes that lead to the pond level sensor system that controls the dam. A failure of this control system last week led to over four days of erratic river levels (“Argo Dam control system fails, causing Huron River to rise and fall quickly,” AnnArbor.com, January 26, 2010).

The divers aren’t in the water yet, so it’s time to look at the zebra mussels—where they are now, how they got here, what they do and how to manage them when they arrive.

Where are zebra mussels from?

The zebra mussel was first described in the lakes of southeast Russia, and their natural distribution also includes the Black and Caspian Seas. They have a long history as an invasive species, and were successfully established in Great Britain (1824), The Netherlands (1827), The Czech Republic (1893), Sweden (1920), Italy (1973), the Great Lakes in the USA (1988) and California (2008). Long-distance transport to the United State and Canada was helped by the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which allowed vessels from Europe to dump their ballast water into the Great Lakes.

A related species, the quagga mussel (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis), has followed a similar path. Where the two species are found, the quagga mussel tends to outcompete the zebra mussel and it grows in greater densities.

What do zebra mussels do to dams?

There’s nothing that a zebra mussel loves more than to attach itself to the inside of a pipe carrying fresh water. The mussels are filter feeders, drinking up to a quart of water per day and slurping up plankton from the water. When they die, the next round of zebra mussels attach themselves to the layer of shells below them, building up a thick crust of debris. The layers build up until the pipe is largely or completely blocked.

Dams are controlled by monitoring water levels on the impoundment above them. If the intake valve to the monitoring well is blocked, changes in water level will not be registered right away, and water level controls will be erratic. In areas where zebra mussels are plentiful, regular inspections and maintenance are required to keep intake valves clear.

Diving for zebra mussels

It’s not as glamorous as deep sea diving for pearls. Divers go underwater and inspect pipes and intake valves for clogs, and break through the clogs as needed to let water run free.

The City of Ann Arbor has contracted with Solomon Diving from Monroe, Michigan, for the Argo Dam dive this morning. They have been in the business of helping utilities control zebra mussel populations since the 1980s.

In the winter, of course, dive operations are much slower and colder; in general, you’d expect that a routine dam maintenance schedule would do this work in more temperate circumstances.

For further reading

Edward Vielmetti writes about the Huron River for AnnArbor.com.

Land of 10,000 infested waters?

By: Pippi Mayfield, DL-Online

Is Minnesota becoming the land of 10,000 lakes infested with aquatic invasive species?

“We need to preserve the finest place on the face of the earth,” Representative Davis Hancock said.

“We are the land of 10,000 lakes, and we need to protect that,” Senator Rod Skoe agreed.

On January 15, officials from Becker, Hubbard and Otter Tail counties, legislators from various districts throughout Minnesota and concerned citizens filled the conference room at Minnesota State, Detroit Lakes to discuss the flowering rush and zebra mussel taking over area lakes and rivers.

Pelican River Watershed District (PRWD) Administrator Tera Guetter said the first invasive to hit Detroit Lake was curly-leaf pondweed.

“It’s more than just a nuisance,” she said, showing slides of mounds and mounds of the weeds washing up on the beach and other shoreline. She added that the PRWD spends about $150,000 a year in roadside pick-up of weeds in the summer.

Since then, there have been more invasives, most notably and most talked about now, flowering rush.

Invading the lakes

Flowering rush first came to the Detroit Lakes area when a lake resident “innocently planted it on the shoreline as a decorative plant,” Mayor Matt Brenk said.

Since then, it has spread to Curfman, Melissa and Buck lakes.

“This plant is not easy to drive through,” Guetter said. “It’s certainly not something you want in front of your house.”

When it first appeared in Detroit Lake a few years ago, Guetter admitted that the watershed district cut the weeds.

“It was the only thing we knew what to do. Unfortunately, it’s enabling the growth of the plant.”

The plant is so new, there is very little to no research available on it. The PRWD has contacted for two studies on the growth of flowering rush and the treatment of it. The Army Corps of Engineers is growing the plant in labs and trying various treatment methods. A study with a professor from the University of Mississippi and from Concordia College is studying the growth and ecology of the plant.

She said more than $1 million has been spent – in taxpayer money – for treatment of the plant thus far.

“Our citizens are very concerned and support us on this,” Guetter said.

The public voted in November to approve a 1 percent food and beverage tax, with a portion of the funds going to help finance the two studies being conducted. The studies are $150,000 total.

Detroit Lakes City Administrator Bob Louiseau said the city spent $50,000 in weed pick up in 2010. The city averaged a dump truckload a day, and on the heavy usage times, like Fourth of July for example, the city would pick up four truckloads.

Zebra mussels loom

On the horizon, the next big concern is zebra mussel. For neighbors though, it’s already ruining their lakes.

“Why didn’t someone do something earlier to prevent zebra mussel infestation?” Otter Tail County COLA President Shawn Olson said she thinks with Pelican Lake now infested.

She considers the day in 2009, when zebra mussels were first identified, as the Black Day, and in one year, the mussels have taken over the lake. And it has spread to Lake Lizzie, and Prairie Lake is next in the chain, she said.

Moriya Rufer, RMB Environmental Laboratories, described how zebra mussels attach themselves to hard surfaces – bottoms of boats, dock legs, minnow buckets, pipes, etc. – and are hard as cement and have to be scraped off.

Another threat to Pelican Lake, she added, is that the mussels will also wash up on the shore, and beaches will no longer be sandy but instead as sharp and hard as shells, a surface people won’t be able to walk barefoot on anymore.

It’s even more discouraging, she said, because the lake association has preventative programs in place, and Pelican Lake was still infested with zebra mussel. The invasive produces millions and millions of eggs each year, and the larva is so small, it can’t be seen, so it’s easy to unknowingly spread it.

Spreading any kind of invasive is easy.

According to a Star Tribune article, “about 62,000 trailered boats come and go every year from Lake Minnetonka, and those boaters end up visiting 257 other lakes, DNR officials say. Lake Mille Lacs has similar use. Between 65,000 and 100,000 boats use Lake Mille Lacs each year, and those boaters end up visiting 171 lakes.”

DNR involvement,

efforts

Louiseau said the city has tried to be proactive, applying for permits to treat the flowering rush while it is still pre-emerged, but that the permits are delayed so long that emerged plants were treated with pre-emergent chemicals.

Permits were also only given to treat the swimming beach area, a small portion of the infected area.

“I believe it’s time for the state of Minnesota to get involved,” he said, meaning financially and trying to get the Department of Natural Resources – the ones who grant permits – to cooperate more at the local level.

“We can’t accept this as status quo and learn to deal with it,” he said of the rush. “It’s critical that we work together on this.”

Control needs to be turned over to the local government agencies, Zorbaz owner and founder Tom Hanson said. It’s not money holding treatment back, but “horrendous bureaucracy,” he said.

“Let’s not just leave [the summit] with a good feeling and then a year later, nothing’s been done,” he added.

As a part of the DNR, Luke Skinner said there is an aquatics invasive species (AIS) prevention report coming out the end of January or first of February containing “ideas to determine the most important ideas for action that have support.”

He said that the stakeholders meetings produced information on AIS laws and the enforcement needed of those laws, increasing awareness, inspection process, focus on high-use infested waters and a possible increase in penalties.

In 2009, DNR officers spent 4,800 hours to AIS enforcement. In 2010, he said, that number jumped to 12,800 hours.

“Most [invasives] are spread through people and their behaviors,” he said.

Lake effects

“Water quality is so important to us,” Becker County Commissioner Barry Nelson agreed.

He said that 54 percent of land value in Becker County is directly related to the lakes.

In 1927, citizens changed the name from Detroit to Detroit Lakes to keep mail from going to Detroit, Mich., accidentally. Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce President Carrie Johnston said that alone showed the town’s pride in its lakes.

It still shows nowadays, with the chamber adopting a “see you at the lakes” slogan to promote the area throughout the United States and Canada.

According to an Explore Minnesota Tourism 2008 study, Johnston said that 1,300 jobs in Becker County are in the leisure and hospitality industry. That industry generates $63 million in gross sales and $4 million in state taxes.

In 2007, Becker Counties’ 40 resorts had over $8 million in gross sales. Guess how many resorts are on lakes.

“The economic impact is huge in this area,” she said. “If the lakes aren’t [clean], we’re not going to see you at the lakes.”

“Unless we become more vigilant regarding this priceless asset, we will see our tourist dollars shrink, our real estate values decline and our quality of life deteriorate,” Hanson said.

When looking for locations to open a new Zorbaz restaurant – he’s opened 14 in 40 years – Hanson said that the No. 1 priority is the lake it is to be located on. The quality of the lake and its beach are imperative to the success of the business.

“Those are our gold mines, our oil fields,” he said of the lakes.

“I understand it’s a public asset,” Lake Detroiters Association President Howard Hanson said of the lakes, “but I believe local custodianship is most powerful kind.”

Dan Kittilson, Hubbard County COLA president, said that Hubbard County’s lakes haven’t been affected much yet – of the 40 lakes in the county, only four have curly-leaf pondweed and one lake and two rivers have faucet snails. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not concerning for Hubbard County.

“This is a shared interest,” he said. “Our lakes are shared by everyone.”

Lake users

By coming together, the group has a “better voice than the independent voice we may have,” Jeff Forrester, executive director of Minnesota Seasonal and Recreational Property Owners Coalition, said.

“Some claim that containing AIS is too hard, too difficult, too inconvenient,” he said. “If we do not stop the spread of AIS, local mitigation costs will soar, electricity and water treatment will become more and more expensive. Property values will decline, and fishing and recreational opportunities will be decimated. It is much cheaper to stop AIS than cope [with it] after the fact.”

Curtis Junt, a North Dakota resident, said even though he isn’t a resident of Minnesota, “this is the No. 1 place I want to be.”

The greatest resource is the lakes.

“Ninety-nine percent of our vacation budget went to your state. There is no other place on earth I’d rather be,” he said of the past years, bringing his family to Minnesota to vacation.

Chuck Johnson, a salmon fisherman from Perham, said he likes to fish Lake Michigan waters, but that lake is infested with quagga mussels, an AIS that is worse that zebra mussels, he said.

He warned legislators and the public that Minnesota has let these invasives infest the waters, and now everyone needs to pull together to prevent the next infestation.

Carl Towley said infestations isn’t anything new, and that if Minnesota truly wants to eradicate its AIS problems, the state needs to quarantine its lakes like other states like California, Colorado, Idaho and Arizona have.

“We’re up against a beast.”

It’s not just about education though, he added, something needs to actually be done.

“Education is good,” Lucy Johnson agreed, “but it’s too late for many of us with prevention only. We need intervention.”

Legislative

support

“This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it’s a Minnesotan issue,” Senator John Carlson said via a letter since he couldn’t attend the summit.

Skoe said he appreciates the local leadership and that DNR rules need to change. He also said Legacy Funds need to be used to help in funding these studies and treatments.

“We need a mindset change,” he said.

Representative Kent Eken said rather than the state wanting to acquire more land, it needs to focus on what it has and protect it.

“We’re not adequately taking care of the land we have.”

Representative Paul Marquart said when he met summit organizer Barb Halbakken Fischburg during his campaign for re-election, he heard for a good 40 minutes about AIS and her concerns.

“If we could bottle some of that passion, we’re going to be in a good stead for moving forward.

“I am not confident we can control this through education and enforcement.”

He said that if a man can be put on the moon, there has to be something to be done about aquatic invasive species.

Representative Bud Nornes said that the summit was very educational and “when you see it firsthand, it sinks in. I’m on board with whatever we can do to eliminate and eradicate.”

“This is an economic issue and a quality of life issue,” Marquart said. “We’ve heard your message loud and clear.”

Bacteria could zap zebra mussels

By Matthew Renta

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The recent discovery of a bacteria that can kill zebra and quagga mussels has raised hopes for private and public organizations fighting to control the environmentally hazardous species.

New York State Museum researchers Daniel Molloy and Denise Mayer discovered a bacteria strain — Pseudomonas fluorescens — that can kill zebra and quagga mussels without killing other native species in the ecosystem.

“The ‘eureka moment’ did not come, interestingly enough, when we discovered the bacteria could kill zebra and quagga mussels, but came when we discovered the lack of sensitivity among non-target species,” Mayer said in a phone interview.

Scientists have found plenty of agents capable of killing the mussels, but in most instances they’ve also killed everything else in an ecosystem, Mayer said.

P. fluorescens infiltrates and destroys the mussels’ digestive system. Mayer and Molloy exposed fish, native mussels, waterfowl and other species to the bacteria and found they were unaffected.

“Our tests show the bacteria kills 100 percent of the target specimens when exposed,” Mayer said.

Dead cells of the strain are equally lethal as live cells, proving the mussels died from a natural toxin found in the strain’s cells — not from a bacterial infection, Mayer and Molloy also discovered.

“This is very significant because it means future commercial formulations will contain dead cells, further reducing environmental concerns,” Mayer said.

Commercial formulations

Marrone Bio Innovations, based in Davis, is in the process of getting federal approval of the first commercial formula using the bacteria discovered by Mayer and Molloy.

Zequanox — the name of the product that combines P. fluorescens with other naturally occurring ingredients such as sugar — could be approved in the first quarter of 2011, with sales commencing later in the year, said CEO and founder of the company Pam Marrone.

“We’ve been working on Zequanox for the past five years,” Marrone said. “We’ve had to find a way to grow it large-scale, commercial size, so customers could use it.”

Marrone tested the formula with Power Generation, a Canadian power supply company, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The tests determined Zequanox can kill mussel populations attached to pipes and other industrial material.

Marrone has begun testing to learn whether the product could be used in open-water scenarios. In a quarry infested with zebra mussels, Zequanox showed “some effect,” Marrone said.

Marrone would also need to identify an application device that could deliver Zequanox to infestation sites in open water.

“There is some precedence for that type of device, as people have used similar devices to treat water for algae or bacteria,” she said.

A different company would most likely be tasked with formulating such, Marrone said.

Local implications

Quagga and zebra mussels have not entered Lake Tahoe. In the past three years the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency implemented a lakewide boat inspection program in an effort to prevent aquatic invasive species from entering into the waters of Lake Tahoe.

The recent discovery of P. fluorescens is “encouraging,” said Ted Thayer, manager of the agency’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program.

“It’s exciting to have the tools available should the lake have an introduction (of non-native mussels),” he said.

However, Thayer pointed out the inspection program is designed to prevent a variety of species from entering the lake, including noxious weeds and other invertebrates.

Furthermore, Zequanox has yet to be successfully applied to open-water situations, Thayer said.

“It would be great if they can perfect it to the point where it could be used in a place like Lake Tahoe, but right now, there is no change to our inspection program,” he said.

Invasive zebra mussels, scourge of Great Lakes, reach Texas

By Bill Hanna

Just a few feet from shore, a large rock is covered with them. A quick scan of the shoreline turns up many more.

This invasive species, an import from Eastern Europe, has long been spreading across the United States. The Great Lakes have been dealing with it for years, and now it has reached Texas.

So far, it has been found only in Lake Texoma and Sister Grove Creek, a tributary that the North Texas Municipal Water District uses to send water from Texoma downstream to Lake Lavon.

“The best way to avoid introduction is to prevent it from ever getting there in the first place – of course, the consequences once it gets established are pretty great,” said Robert McMahon, a professor emeritus in the University of Texas at Arlington department of biology who has studied zebra mussels since 1990.

The fear is the resilient mollusks and their larvae will be washed downstream into Lake Lavon, where they could spread throughout the Trinity River basin, creating havoc with pipelines and intake valves and threatening native species.

While scientists have tried to kill them off in Sister Grove Creek, the North Texas water district has stopped pumping for the past 18 months from Lake Texoma. Biologists have been successful in killing off most of them.

What makes the task more daunting is that there is another, perhaps more likely way for zebra mussels to spread: via boats that are hauled from infested lakes. That is what is thought to have happened at Lake Texoma.

“My feeling is it’s inevitable we’re going to see them here,” said David Marshall, engineering services director of the Tarrant Regional Water District. “The only question is, will it be in two years or 10 years?”

Scientists can’t say for sure what will happen if they get established in Texas, but the evidence in other states isn’t pretty. Zebra mussels have changed the ecosystems of lakes and ruined beaches for swimmers by depositing razor-sharp shells along the shoreline.

For those who maintain reservoirs, such as the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers and the Tarrant Regional Water District, there is concern that they could choke intake valves and screens. That could force agencies to spend untold dollars retrofitting old systems with copper screens, creating regular scraping programs and pumping higher doses of chlorine through pipelines to prevent clogging by the mussels.

“It is a difficult challenge because they are so resilient,” said Randy Cephus of the Corps of Engineers’ Fort Worth District. “That’s why preventive measures are so vitally important. Once they get a toehold, they can multiply very rapidly. They’re very hard to get rid of.”

Invasives: Some People Just Don’t Give a Damn

There have been some frightening interesting news stories lately dealing with some new ($$$) ideas for dealing with Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS).

Bass Parade referenced a Facebook post by Lindner’s Angling Edge, where the Linder’s talk about the potential implementation of “Boat Baths” to stop the spread of AIS.

Then there is the Star Tribune article about the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and how they are suggesting a system of Green / Red Sticker permits for boats. Green Sticker means you can put your boat on Non-Infested waters, a Red Sticker means you must have your craft professionally cleaned before launching on another body of water.

Look at the MN DNR map of Zebra Mussels they found in Lake Minnetonka in 2010. They first were spotted on the East side of the lake, presumably from the Grey’s Bay launch. Grey’s Bay is a notorious Recreational Boater launch. From there the Zebra Mussels are found moving westward to many of the popular Marina’s and Party Beaches.

Posted by Tom Harkman

We hate them! Invasive species discussions will dominate DNR, outdoors media this year

By Chris Niskanen

Minnesotans are suddenly really mad — and scared — about all those aquatic invasive species — zebra mussels, curlyleaf pond weed and Eurasian watermilfoil for instance — that are spreading through our lakes and rivers.

I just returned from the two-day Department of Natural Resources Roundable in Brooklyn Center, where Saturday participants spent nearly four hours talking about invasive species.

They were greeted by a large mounted bighead carp, above, at the registration desk.

One speaker, former DNR biologist and fisheries expert Dick Sternberg, predicted a huge outbreak of zebra mussels this year on Lake Mille Lacs based on the number of larvae found by fisheries managers last fall.

“Besides the budget, aquatic invasive species are the most important issue facing us,” said Bob Meier, DNR assistant commissioner for legislative affairs. “We need to do anything we can now before it’s too late.”

The DNR of late has been a punching bag for lakeshore and cabin owners demanding more aggressive approaches to stopping the spread of invasive plants, mollusks and fish. The DNR has finally taken it to heart, promising Saturday a multi-pronged approach to dealing with the issue.

Some solutions are radical.

Jay Rendall, DNR invasive species coordinator, suggested Saturday setting up “containment zones” around major lakes like Minnetonka and Mille Lacs, where boaters leaving those lakes would be required to stop into special washing stations to clean their boats and undergo inspections.

Some folks want the DNR to go further, such as confiscating boats found to be transporting aquatic invasive species or requiring boaters to have special permits before launching their boats into a lake.

Roundtable participants were visibly worried and gasping during a slideshow by Sternberg that examined the problems caused by zebra mussels in the Great Lakes.

Sternberg had repeated requests for copies of his PowerPoint presentation. One state senator said he wanted Sternberg to show the presentation at the Legislature.

A couple of observations emerged during the Roundtable:

1. It’s obvious that lakeshow and cabin owners, who are getting organized around this issue, are tired of inaction and are looking for Draconian responses, mostly aimed at restricting boating traffic on their lakes.

2. Anglers are worried about the biological impacts of invasives, but they don’t want to be unfairly punished for their boat ownership. They want the pain of regulations spread not just to boaters, but to all Minnesotans.

(One telling slide on Saturday showed a boat lift encrusted with zebra mussels that was purchased by a lakeshore owner who intended to move it to a lake that didn’t have zebra mussels. She was stopped in the nick of time.)

3. The DNR doesn’t have the money to seriously ramp up education and enforcement efforts, and won’t like get much more considering the state’s budget deficit.

4. The spread of zebra mussels terrifies folks because there is no way to get rid of them once they get established in a lake. There is no chemical or biological treatment known.

5. Minnesotans are getting numb to the public campaigns about invasive species, but they’re about to get hit along side the head with a renewed message about the threats invasive species pose.

‘Up against a beast’

By: By Pippi Mayfield, Detroit Lakes Tribune, Alexandria Echo Press

Editor’s note: Because of the presence of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species in the Douglas County area, we think this story from the Detroit Lakes Tribune is noteworthy to local readers.

Is Minnesota becoming the land of 10,000 lakes infested with aquatic invasive species?

“We need to preserve the finest place on the face of the earth,” Representative Davis Hancock said.

“We are the land of 10,000 lakes, and we need to protect that,” Senator Rod Skoe agreed.

On January 15, officials from Becker, Hubbard and Otter Tail counties, legislators from various districts throughout Minnesota and concerned citizens filled the conference room at Minnesota State, Detroit Lakes to discuss the flowering rush and zebra mussel taking over area lakes and rivers.

Pelican River Watershed District (PRWD) Administrator Tera Guetter said the first invasive to hit Detroit Lake was curly-leaf pondweed.

“It’s more than just a nuisance,” she said, showing slides of mounds and mounds of the weeds washing up on the beach and other shoreline. She added that the PRWD spends about $150,000 a year in roadside pick-up of weeds in the summer.

Since then, there have been more invasives, most notably and most talked about now, flowering rush.

Invading the lakes

Flowering rush first came to the Detroit Lakes area when a lake resident “innocently planted it on the shoreline as a decorative plant,” Mayor Matt Brenk said.

Since then, it has spread to Curfman, Melissa and Buck lakes.

“This plant is not easy to drive through,” Guetter said. “It’s certainly not something you want in front of your house.”

When it first appeared in Detroit Lake a few years ago, Guetter admitted that the watershed district cut the weeds.

“It was the only thing we knew what to do. Unfortunately, it’s enabling the growth of the plant.”

The plant is so new, there is very little to no research available on it. The PRWD has contacted for two studies on the growth of flowering rush and the treatment of it. The Army Corps of Engineers is growing the plant in labs and trying various treatment methods. A study with a professor from the University of Mississippi and from Concordia College is studying the growth and ecology of the plant.

She said more than $1 million has been spent – in taxpayer money – for treatment of the plant thus far.

“Our citizens are very concerned and support us on this,” Guetter said.

The public voted in November to approve a 1 percent food and beverage tax, with a portion of the funds going to help finance the two studies being conducted. The studies are $150,000 total.

Detroit Lakes City Administrator Bob Louiseau said the city spent $50,000 in weed pick up in 2010. The city averaged a dump truckload a day, and on the heavy usage times, like Fourth of July for example, the city would pick up four truckloads.

Zebra mussels loom

On the horizon, the next big concern is zebra mussel. For neighbors though, it’s already ruining their lakes.

“Why didn’t someone do something earlier to prevent zebra mussel infestation?” Otter Tail County COLA President Shawn Olson said she thinks with Pelican Lake now infested.

She considers the day in 2009, when zebra mussels were first identified, as the Black Day, and in one year, the mussels have taken over the lake. And it has spread to Lake Lizzie, and Prairie Lake is next in the chain, she said.

Moriya Rufer, RMB Environmental Laboratories, described how zebra mussels attach themselves to hard surfaces – bottoms of boats, dock legs, minnow buckets, pipes, etc. – and are hard as cement and have to be scraped off.

Another threat to Pelican Lake, she added, is that the mussels will also wash up on the shore, and beaches will no longer be sandy but instead as sharp and hard as shells, a surface people won’t be able to walk barefoot on anymore.

It’s even more discouraging, she said, because the lake association has preventative programs in place, and Pelican Lake was still infested with zebra mussel. The invasive produces millions and millions of eggs each year, and the larva is so small, it can’t be seen, so it’s easy to unknowingly spread it.

Spreading any kind of invasive is easy.

According to a Star Tribune article, “about 62,000 trailered boats come and go every year from Lake Minnetonka, and those boaters end up visiting 257 other lakes, DNR officials say. Lake Mille Lacs has similar use. Between 65,000 and 100,000 boats use Lake Mille Lacs each year, and those boaters end up visiting 171 lakes.”

DNR involvement,

efforts

Louiseau said the city has tried to be proactive, applying for permits to treat the flowering rush while it is still pre-emerged, but that the permits are delayed so long that emerged plants were treated with pre-emergent chemicals.

Permits were also only given to treat the swimming beach area, a small portion of the infected area.

“I believe it’s time for the state of Minnesota to get involved,” he said, meaning financially and trying to get the Department of Natural Resources – the ones who grant permits – to cooperate more at the local level.

“We can’t accept this as status quo and learn to deal with it,” he said of the rush. “It’s critical that we work together on this.”

Control needs to be turned over to the local government agencies, Zorbaz owner and founder Tom Hanson said. It’s not money holding treatment back, but “horrendous bureaucracy,” he said.

“Let’s not just leave [the summit] with a good feeling and then a year later, nothing’s been done,” he added.

As a part of the DNR, Luke Skinner said there is an aquatics invasive species (AIS) prevention report coming out the end of January or first of February containing “ideas to determine the most important ideas for action that have support.”

He said that the stakeholders meetings produced information on AIS laws and the enforcement needed of those laws, increasing awareness, inspection process, focus on high-use infested waters and a possible increase in penalties.

In 2009, DNR officers spent 4,800 hours to AIS enforcement. In 2010, he said, that number jumped to 12,800 hours.

“Most [invasives] are spread through people and their behaviors,” he said.

Lake effects

“Water quality is so important to us,” Becker County Commissioner Barry Nelson agreed.

He said that 54 percent of land value in Becker County is directly related to the lakes.

In 1927, citizens changed the name from Detroit to Detroit Lakes to keep mail from going to Detroit, Mich., accidentally. Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce President Carrie Johnston said that alone showed the town’s pride in its lakes.

It still shows nowadays, with the chamber adopting a “see you at the lakes” slogan to promote the area throughout the United States and Canada.

According to an Explore Minnesota Tourism 2008 study, Johnston said that 1,300 jobs in Becker County are in the leisure and hospitality industry. That industry generates $63 million in gross sales and $4 million in state taxes.

In 2007, Becker Counties’ 40 resorts had over $8 million in gross sales. Guess how many resorts are on lakes.

“The economic impact is huge in this area,” she said. “If the lakes aren’t [clean], we’re not going to see you at the lakes.”

“Unless we become more vigilant regarding this priceless asset, we will see our tourist dollars shrink, our real estate values decline and our quality of life deteriorate,” Hanson said.

When looking for locations to open a new Zorbaz restaurant – he’s opened 14 in 40 years – Hanson said that the No. 1 priority is the lake it is to be located on. The quality of the lake and its beach are imperative to the success of the business.

“Those are our gold mines, our oil fields,” he said of the lakes.

“I understand it’s a public asset,” Lake Detroiters Association President Howard Hanson said of the lakes, “but I believe local custodianship is most powerful kind.”

Dan Kittilson, Hubbard County COLA president, said that Hubbard County’s lakes haven’t been affected much yet – of the 40 lakes in the county, only four have curly-leaf pondweed and one lake and two rivers have faucet snails. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not concerning for Hubbard County.

“This is a shared interest,” he said. “Our lakes are shared by everyone.”

Lake users

By coming together, the group has a “better voice than the independent voice we may have,” Jeff Forrester, executive director of Minnesota Seasonal and Recreational Property Owners Coalition, said.

“Some claim that containing AIS is too hard, too difficult, too inconvenient,” he said. “If we do not stop the spread of AIS, local mitigation costs will soar, electricity and water treatment will become more and more expensive. Property values will decline, and fishing and recreational opportunities will be decimated. It is much cheaper to stop AIS than cope [with it] after the fact.”

Curtis Junt, a North Dakota resident, said even though he isn’t a resident of Minnesota, “this is the No. 1 place I want to be.”

The greatest resource is the lakes.

“Ninety-nine percent of our vacation budget went to your state. There is no other place on earth I’d rather be,” he said of the past years, bringing his family to Minnesota to vacation.

Chuck Johnson, a salmon fisherman from Perham, said he likes to fish Lake Michigan waters, but that lake is infested with quagga mussels, an AIS that is worse that zebra mussels, he said.

He warned legislators and the public that Minnesota has let these invasives infest the waters, and now everyone needs to pull together to prevent the next infestation.

Carl Towley said infestations isn’t anything new, and that if Minnesota truly wants to eradicate its AIS problems, the state needs to quarantine its lakes like other states like California, Colorado, Idaho and Arizona have.

“We’re up against a beast.”

It’s not just about education though, he added, something needs to actually be done.

“Education is good,” Lucy Johnson agreed, “but it’s too late for many of us with prevention only. We need intervention.”

Legislative

support

“This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it’s a Minnesotan issue,” Senator John Carlson said via a letter since he couldn’t attend the summit.

Skoe said he appreciates the local leadership and that DNR rules need to change. He also said Legacy Funds need to be used to help in funding these studies and treatments.

“We need a mindset change,” he said.

Representative Kent Eken said rather than the state wanting to acquire more land, it needs to focus on what it has and protect it.

“We’re not adequately taking care of the land we have.”

Representative Paul Marquart said when he met summit organizer Barb Halbakken Fischburg during his campaign for re-election, he heard for a good 40 minutes about AIS and her concerns.

“If we could bottle some of that passion, we’re going to be in a good stead for moving forward.

“I am not confident we can control this through education and enforcement.”

He said that if a man can be put on the moon, there has to be something to be done about aquatic invasive species.

Representative Bud Nornes said that the summit was very educational and “when you see it firsthand, it sinks in. I’m on board with whatever we can do to eliminate and eradicate.”

“This is an economic issue and a quality of life issue,” Marquart said. “We’ve heard your message loud and clear.”

Zebra mussels lose stranglehold on Hudson

NEW YORK, Jan. 21 (UPI) — Native mussels are beating back invasive zebra mussels in New York’s Hudson River, scientists say, although they’re not sure what is causing the turnaround.

Zebra mussels — striped, nickel-sized mollusks native to western Asia — first appeared in the United States in 1988 as stowaways in ship ballast water. Their tendency to starve out native invertebrates and foul equipment has made them serious aquatic pests, AAAS ScienceMag.org reported Friday.

Zebra mussels hit the Hudson hard in 1991, quickly gobbling up most of the river’s plankton while native mussels, clams, and other invertebrates plummeted to as little as 1 percent of their original populations.

“It looked really, really grim,” David Strayer of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York says.

Then around 2001, Strayer says, the native mussels stopped declining.

Researchers feared it was a temporary recovery, but the trend persisted, and in 2007 scientists reported a solid, albeit incomplete, comeback, although they’re not sure what might be driving it.

It could be native blue crabs or some other predator are eating more zebra mussels or their larvae, researchers say, or perhaps some undetected pathogen or parasite is keeping them in check.

The native invertebrates are approaching their pre-invasion numbers, scientists say.

Read more: https://www.upi.com/Science_News/2011/01/21/Zebra-mussels-lose-stranglehold-on-Hudson/UPI-92791295659484/#ixzz1CtZvxHiz

Professional Anglers Join Forces to Fight Invasive Species

Wildlife Forever and the National Professional Anglers Association (NPAA) have officially joined forces in the battle against invasive species. The NPAA is one of best ambassador groups in reaching out to the general public regarding invasive species. By enlisting in the battle together, other anglers will join the fight and learn how to “Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!”

“I’ve met anglers this year who have seen their favorite lake’s ecosystem changed drastically because of invasive species. These anglers have had to change tactics and techniques because zebra mussels cut their line or milfoil fouls the hooks. Many pro-anglers understand invasives first hand, and this new partnership will arm them with the tools and information they need to help get the word out to their peers, and sponsors about the threat invasive species pose to the sport we love.” said Wildlife Forever’s Program Manager, Pat Conzemius.

Wildlife Forever’s collaborative conservation efforts, called the Threat Campaign®, reaches out to youth and adults to arm them with the knowledge needed to protect habitat and wildlife in a vastly changing environment. Invasive species are one of the greatest threats facing the American landscape and by creatively engaging youth and outdoors people with educational and prevention messages, millions of people are learning how to “Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!”

“This new partnership between Wildlife Forever and the NPAA will empower the more than 400 NPAA members and a growing number of NPAA Supporting Partners with the facts they need to help eliminate the threat that invasive species pose to our waterways”, said Pat Neu Executive Director of the NPAA. Neu went on to say, “that by combining the resources at Wildlife Forever and the volunteer manpower of the NPAA we will have created an effective partnership that can make a difference in the ongoing fight against invasive species across the U.S. and Canada.”

For more information on either of these non-profit organizations go to www.WildlifeForever.org and www.NPAA.net

WAPOA lists pluses and minuses in area of aquatic invasive species

By Martha Davidge

The recent news that zebra mussels (ZM) have infested Gull Lake in Crow Wing County underscores the importance of increased diligence on everyone’s part to do what they can to keep these mussels out of waters that have tested – so far – negative for this aquatic invasive species.

The Whitefish Area Property Owners Association (WAPOA) has been working for years in prevention of and education about all aquatic invasive species (AIS). Their work has included sponsoring classes to train volunteers to man accesses, holding courses for lake professionals, educating the public about AIS through news articles, and paying to have 28 sites professionally checked twice each summer for the presence of AIS.

This work does not come without a price tag. Grants have helped, but the main cost of WAPOA’s work on AIS prevention and education has come from membership dues and donations earmarked specifically toward WAPOA’s AIS work.

However, WAPOA membership director Dave Topinka said�a relatively�small percentage of lakeshore landowners are members. He urges residents (both those who own property on and off the lake) as well as visitors and businesses to join and help out in areas like AIS. Membership and donations are tax deductible.

Speaking recently about the news that zebra mussels have been found in numerous locations in Gull Lake, WAPOA AIS director Marv Erdman said there have been (and are currently) pluses and minuses noted in the area of AIS when looking at the Whitefish Chain and surrounding area lakes.

Plus: For the past several years WAPOA has hired PLM Lake & Land Management out of Pequot Lakes to test 28 public, marina and lodge accesses on the Whitefish Chain and surrounding lakes for the presence of AIS. The testing was completed in June and again in August this past summer and the results were good.

Zebra mussels were not found during these assessments, but as Erdman said, zebra mussels start out in a microscopic state and can be present for some time before being found as visible mature mussels. Officials interviewed about Gull Lake’s mussels in recent interviews said it was likely the mussels had been in the lake for some time, but were just not seen.

“While WAPOA is very pleased that no new occurrences of Eurasian water milfoil have been found in the Whitefish Chain and surrounding lakes in 2010 during PLM’s lake vegetation assessments,” said Erdman, “we are extremely disappointed to learn that zebra mussels were found in Gull Lake the first week of October.”

Plus: For the past several years, WAPOA has been sponsoring classes for individuals to learn how to volunteer at public accesses. These volunteers are taught to survey boaters, check for invasives species on boats and trailers, and help educate the public about ways to curtail the spread of AIS.

These much-needed volunteers fill a gap because DNR officials cannot be everywhere; and (minus) cutbacks in state funding for paid DNR workers to man accesses throughout the lake country have meant fewer checks at accesses.

Minus: WAPOA has seen a decrease in the number of people willing to spend the time to take a class or show up to man the accesses. Erdman said trained WAPOA individuals are stretched thin in the boating months, again leaving many accesses unmanned.

Plus: WAPOA and other groups have for several years sponsored a course for lake professionals (dock movers, guides, etc.) in AIS detection and prevention. In fact, it was a trained lake professional who first noted zebra mussels on docks being removed from Gull Lake this fall and brought samples to DNR officials to verify what he’d found.

“Now more than ever it’s important for people to ask their lake professionals to take the class,” Erdman said. “And if they already have, please thank them for taking the time to do it.”

Plus: There is now a Minnesota state law requiring boaters to drain, clean and dry their boat bilges and live wells before they leave any lake or river. The new law also makes it illegal to trailer a boat on a public road with its drain plug in. And it is illegal to dump minnows, leeches, nightcrawlers or any other bait into waters.

WAPOA president Dave Fischer said the publicity about AIS has been beneficial. “Most residents who live up here are aware of the requirements, but many visitors to the area are not,” he said. “We urge lake owners to talk to their visitors about the regulations and the reasons for having them.”

Minus: With the gaps in inspections at accesses, will people follow through when they are in a hurry to get a boat on or off a lake and no one is watching? As Erdman said, one can only hope that people care enough about the lakes to follow the rules and encourage others to do the same.

Minus: Erdman said there are some people who think that because zebra mussels filter water, that the invasives will actually be good for lake water quality. Not so, he said.

“What zebra mussels do is destroy the bottom of the food chain, starting with the microscopic plankton,” said Erdman. “Zebra mussels can kill our native mussels by attaching themselves in enormous numbers and starving or smothering these natives. ZM may also compete with larval fish for small food particles (plant plankton). They are filter feeders, which means they strain tiny food particles from the water and the tens or hundreds of thousands of these mussels may eat so much of this food that there may not be enough left for other aquatic animals, such as larval fish (which become minnows).”

In a recent Star Tribune newspaper article, Dan Swanson, DNR invasive species specialist, said the impact to infested lakes varies, but the mussels can affect water clarity, vegetation growth and thus possibly fisheries.

When Lake Minnetonka was found to have mussels in 2009, Star Tribune writer Laurie Blake said, “Zebra mussels litter beaches, smother native mussels, clog water intakes, and undermine fish and wildlife habitats.”

With swimming, boating and fishing all at risk from the negative effects of AIS, Erdman said an effect on property values is obvious.

“Your membership dues, additional contributions and volunteering efforts with your local lake association, WAPOA, Minnesota Waters or LARA (Lakes And Rivers Alliance) are extremely important,” he said.

“We hope you will help support WAPOA’s activities to receive grants requiring matching funds, train public access monitors and professional lake service providers, and educate the public in general about the necessity to keep our waters free from AIS,” he added.

To join, send your tax-deductible $25 membership check to WAPOA, Box 342, Crosslake, MN 56442. You may donate more and earmark it for AIS. Learn more about the lake association’s work at www.wapoa.org.

(Martha Davidge is publicity director for WAPOA.)