Looking for a new method to fight invasive species
Brainerd Dispatch, 9/18/2013
Fighting the spread of aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels may move to a new battlefield.
Saturday, the Gull Chain of Lakes Association is expected to vote on a proposal to donate funds toward a new research and control program aimed at zebra mussels. It would be a change from early efforts the association put into preventing the spread of invasive species, which met with limited success.
Zebra mussels are small, fingernail-sized animals native to eastern Europe and western Russia.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported the invasive mussels’ shells may cause cuts and scrapes as they attach to rocks, swim rafts and ladders. They also can kill native mussels. As they filter plankton from the water, the question becomes how the filtering of a large number of mussels may reduce food for native fish. Female zebra mussels may produce 100,000 to 500,000 eggs per year.
The Gull Chain of Lakes Association was one of the first to set up a decontamination station to clean boats and thus prevent the spread of zebra mussels and other invasive aquatic hitchhikers. The station was set up on the Gull Lake access on Highway 371. The association paid to staff the station and offered the boat cleaning free of charge to boats coming into the lake and leaving it. But a small percentage of boaters were willing to wait the 15 minutes it took to clean the boat. The association offered to give the decontamination station to the DNR, with the stipulation it be used on the Gull Lake Chain.
Marvin Meyer, Gull Chain of Lakes Association board chairman, said the DNR declined the offer saying it couldn’t accept a donation with strings attached.
Now the association may turn its efforts to fund a new effort.
In 2012, the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) was formed at the University of Minnesota. The center’s goal is to develop new tools to fight aquatic invasive species and specifically zebra mussels.
Meyer said reports saying the association was putting funding toward the MAISRC were premature. Although he suspects they will authorize it when the board meets for its monthly session Saturday.
Before the arrival of zebra mussels, Meyer said the Gull Lake Chain was doing pretty well but now they are spreading.
Meyer said the association has struggled with boaters who weren’t willing to have their boats washed at the decontamination station and with the DNR. With the decontamination station put on the sidelines, Meyer said the association thought maybe participating with the University of Minnesota would be a better way to go.
“We want this lake to be good for our kids and our grandkids and next generations and maybe the way to do that is to look at better ways to control the zebra mussels,” Meyer said.
Meyer said milfoil isn’t in the chain yet, but they have worked with grants and contributions to control the curly-leaf pondweed that is present.
“the state isn’t — unfortunately — willing to put a lot of money forward and I think it’s going to be up to local businesses and homeowners and others who enjoy the lake to throw money in the pot to help with the research,” Meyer said.
Ten years ago he said most people weren’t worried about zebra mussels so it’s a battle to control the invasive species that are currently present and those people don’t know about yet but may be coming in the future.
Meyer said as native species are filtered out with the zebra mussels, no one is sure what that will mean for Minnesota lakes on a long-term basis. And, he said, those lakes are an economic engine for the region.
“I know we are all concerned and we all have to work together as we move forward on these issues,” Meyer said, adding there are huge challenges. “Yet we all love our lakes. We just need to work hard to protect it. Right now for a few years that may mean supporting the University of Minnesota.”