A new lead inspector, mobile decontamination equipment and an increase in inspection hours are all part of Crow Wing County’s plan to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species in 2020.

Approving a prevention plan is an annual action the county board takes as part of outlining how the county intends to spend about $450,000 in grant funding received from the state to combat invasives such as zebra mussels and starry stonewort. It includes a multipronged approach, combining watercraft inspections at boat landings, decontaminations at fixed and mobile locations, treatment of Eurasian milfoil, education and awareness through marketing efforts and early detection.

The county intends to allocate 17,040 hours to inspecting watercraft - 140 more than last year - at 42 public accesses selected through a data model to determine risk of AIS. The model takes into account the location of infested and uninfested waters, the average number of boats inspected per hour at 48 accesses and the estimated number of watercraft moving from infested lakes to uninfested lakes, both within the county and across county lines.

“The results also showed that best prioritization of landings will be achieved when inspecting zebra mussel infested lakes with a lot of boat traffic and zebra mussel uninfested lakes with a lot of incoming traffic from out of the county,” the county’s plan stated.

These inspection hours combine with those provided by lake associations and local governmental units through delegation agreements with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

A new seasonal part-time lead inspector will assist with the watercraft inspection program, including providing spot checks, assisting with training, checking boats at fishing tournaments, checking data and operating the new mobile decontamination unit. This position is in addition to Nicole Erickson, the environmental services specialist focused on AIS prevention.

The new mobile decontamination unit will join the county’s permanent decontamination station located at the Joint Maintenance Highway Facility in Crosslake. This will make it possible to decontaminate watercraft on-site during weekend hours at various landings throughout the county. Decontamination involves spraying boats, motors, trailers and other water-related equipment with hot water sprayed at high pressure in an effort to kill, remove and flush visible zebra mussels, aquatic plants and infested water.

A graph prepared by Crow Wing County shows the number of newly infested water bodies identified each year before and after the implementation of a program providing state aid to local governments to combat the spread of aquatic invasive species.
A graph prepared by Crow Wing County shows the number of newly infested water bodies identified each year before and after the implementation of a program providing state aid to local governments to combat the spread of aquatic invasive species.

New AIS infestations appear to have slowed somewhat in Minnesota waters since the state began granting local aid to fight the spread. According to a graph in Crow Wing County’s plan, the trend is generally headed downward statewide. In 2012, 118 water bodies were identified with new infestations, with 113 more coming in 2014. Since then, 2018 saw the highest number of new infestations at 87, although all other years between 2015 and 2019 have ranged between 60 and 70 new infestations.

In Crow Wing County, 20 new infestations were identified in 2012-14. In the five years since, a total of 27 additional water bodies were found to be infested, for an average of a little over five each year.

In other business Feb. 4, the county board entered a memorandum of understanding with Ideal Township establishing regular contributions by the county toward the cost of administering the Rollie Johnson Natural and Recreational Area Joint Powers Board, which governs the area including Big Island, Steamboat Island and Little Island on Whitefish Lake.

The county will contribute $2,000 per year. Of that, the township will deduct $250 will be deducted by the township as the county’s contribution toward bookkeeping. Then, the township will expend up to $1,000 before beginning to spend the remaining funds supplied by Crow Wing County.

A request for board action stated this arrangement was intended to replace Crow Wing County’s previous contribution of providing Sentencing to Service workers from the jail, a program that has since ended. Inmates previously hauled cords of wood to Big Island as part of an effort to discourage people from cutting down trees in the old-growth forest on the island.

The county board also approved a priority list of bridges and/or culverts in need of replacement, rehabilitation or removal as funding becomes available. All of those identified are eligible for federal bridge funding, state bridge bonding or town bridge account funding. The county must submit a list to the state of Minnesota each year.

Those proposed for construction between 2020 and 2022 are the Clark Lake outlet on Hazelwood Drive in Nisswa (2020), the Nokasippi River crossing at County Highway 23 (2021), the Pine River crossing on County Highway 15 (2021), and the Nokasippi River crossing at County Highway 45 (2022). The rest of those listed were proposed for construction in 2025 or later.