June 3, 2011
Our lakes continue to be free of Aquatic Invasive Species and it is up to each of us to keep it that way. Eurasian watermilfoil creates a thick mat of weeds that chokes a lake making boating, fishing, and swimming difficult. Zebra mussels multiple very rapidly to quickly cover docks, hoists, and rocks. They have sharp edges that can cut swimmers feet.
The economic impact to the Iowa Great Lakes if our lakes were to become infested with Eurasian watermilfoil or zebra mussels is tremendous. The economic impact would be measured in the tens of millions of dollars – maybe $100 million. It is critical to note that once a lake has become infested with Eurasian watermilfoil or zebra mussels there is no effective way to remove them. Advance boater education is key!
For the last four years the lake protective associations and the DNR have used many communications tools to educate the boating public: highway billboards, cable television, newspaper articles, local radio stations, boat ramp kiosks, boaters maps, DNR personnel, and boat ramp community volunteers. We plan to continue all of these efforts for the 2011 boating season.
We have suffered a major setback this summer in that the DNR Trust Fund, which has historically funded 14 Water Patrol Officers and 3 Fisheries Bureau interns, has been severely cut back (see separate article). As of early May, we are expecting 4 to 8 Water Patrol Officers with very little time available for working on boat ramps. In addition we are expecting only one DNR Fisheries Bureau intern to focus on AIS prevention compared to the three interns we were expecting.
Our Aquatic Invasive Species experience has taught us the most effective way to communicate the AIS message is by direct face-to-face contact on the boat ramp. With 12 major boat ramps in Dickinson County we will not have enough DNR Water Patrol Officers or DNR Fisheries Bureau summer interns to provide sufficient boat ramp coverage during busy boating days.
BOAT RAMP COMMUNITY VOLUNTEERS
The lack of DNR personnel will make our community boat ramp volunteer program. Even more important in 2009, a new Eurasian watermilfoil infestation was found in Mill Creek Lake near Paullina in O’Brien County and this past summer zebra mussels were found in Lake Minnetonka and Gull Lake near Brainerd, Minnesota.
We ask of the community boat ramp volunteers to be on a boat ramp only two hours a month during June, July, and August. Volunteer tools, training, and scheduling information can be found on the Water Safety Council website (www.watersafetycouncil.org then click on Aquatic Invasive Species).
STUDENT CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION INTERNS
In order to beef up our presence on the boat ramps the Dickinson County Water Quality Commission and the Okoboji Protective Association have teamed together to fund a Student Conservation Association (SCA) program There will be six SCA interns who will be on our boat ramps from Memorial Day through Labor Day. These college students will live at Iowa Lakeside Lab and work at the twelve major boat ramps educating boaters about the threat of Aquatic Invasive Species.
We are hopeful that the combination of the interns and the volunteers will help fill void created by the DNR shortage of manpower and help protect our most precious resource. Please join our effort.
Article by Phil Petersen – IGLA Executive Director