The focus of Cass County's Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Task Force is to plan, pursue and implement strategies to prevent AIS from entering the public waters of Cass County.

This is being done through ongoing education, partnerships with lake associations, watercraft inspection and decontamination. There have been two new infestations reported or found in Cass County this summer, both in Lake Roosevelt, which was confirmed to have Eurasian water milfoil and curly leaf pondweed.

Cass County has 30 watercraft inspectors that have performed well over 13,000 watercraft inspections so far. Boaters have entered Cass County lakes from 31 different states and Canada.

In addition to performing inspections, watercraft inspectors also provide knowledge to boaters about AIS such as drain plug and bait laws as well as explaining to them how to perform their own inspections every time they put their watercraft in and take it out. According to a Cass County watercraft inspector, most people are aware of AIS and willing to do their own inspections even if an inspector is not present. She stated she always strives to teach them to do their own inspections.

There are 10 decontamination unit locations in Cass County, four of which are at lake service providers. A decontamination unit at Federal Dam is in the soon-to-be-completed process of being purchased in a joint partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers and will be operational very soon. Cass Soil and Water Conservation District has paid for half the cost of a new decontamination unit there and will staff and operate the unit in the future.

On Aug. 19 and 20, the second AIS Enhanced Training Workshop of the year was held in Backus. The workshop was held using funds obtained from a matching grant provided by the Initiative Foundation, and will continue to be held through 2019. It provided training for the newly hired watercraft inspectors, and this summer session was opened up for other counties to participate in.

Lake associations also were invited to participate free of charge. This is part of the public education and outreach done by Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force of Cass County.

According to Rima Smith-Keprios, unlike most other counties, the AIS watercraft inspection budget allows Cass County to continue inspections through September into October. Five new inspectors have recently been hired to replace several that are leaving for the school year.

For more information about aquatic invasive species in Cass County lakes, contact Rima Smith-Keprios at 218-547-7324 or rima.smith.keprios@co.cass.mn.us.