WAPOA OFF TO AN EARLY START
Hears Encouraging Work from U of MN
By Alan Sherburne
It was early in the season but WAPOA was back at work on April 22nd with a public meeting featuring invited experts who were asked to bring the latest invasive species and public policy information to the group.
WAPOA President Tom Watson introduced guest speakers, Jeff Forester, Executive Director of the statewide organization Minnesota Lakes & Rivers Advocates, Rich Rezanka, DNR Aquatic Invasive Species Specialist for NE Minnesota, and Art Weaver, former President of the Pelican Lake Association.
MLRA’s Forester, told the group the present environment at the current legislative session is still very fluid with possibilities that there will be program funding cuts in environmental bills at both the state and federal levels. He is concerned about a growing trend in legislation and local practice that separates local people from local decisions. Forester continues, “Existing minimum shoreline rules have been ignored locally for many years. Local water quality is suffering ‘death by a thousand cuts.’ We are looking at 80% more variances for shoreland development. So even the minimal rules that we passed are being undone.”
In regard to invasive species, he feels that, “An AIS task force that includes a broad base of the public is a best management practice, and consistent with the concept of local control.
DNR AIS specialist Rezanka introduced himself, “I grew up on these lakes, so my heart is here.” He handles northeast Minnesota for invasive species issues. Only 8 of the 10 positions for DNR AIS specialists are currently filled. Last fall invasive starry stonewort was discovered in a second area of the state (near Bemidji). “We still don’t know very much about this macroalgae [starry stonewort]. It grows at a ridiculously fast rate, inches a day.”
On spiny waterfleas. Their presence in Mille Lacs may be their southernmost extent. Spiny waterflea can reproduce asexually as well as sexually. One egg can start a new infestation. A female can lay a million eggs in a season. They can clone themselves. They definitely can cause a food chain disruption as their primary food source is daphnia, a game fish food too.
Rezanka said they are now discovering milfoil hybrids, with differing susceptibility to the usual herbicides. Some appear very resistant to treatment. To identify them with certainty now, DNA testing is done. Hybrid milfoil is more common in the Twin Cities than in this area.
Rezanka also applauded the University of Minnesota’s invasive species research. They have achieved “astonishing results with an insignificant budget.”
Watson reported on behalf of Tim Collette, DNR Conservation Officer for our area, who sent this message to the conference: “The biggest concern right now is dock/lift installers. It appears that some are not up-to-date on the current laws or are choosing to bypass them. There are a few that have been hauling boat lifts on the road without cleaning them first. They are only allowed to transport without cleaning one way directly to their designated cleaning/decontamination area.” He encouraged members to “keep an eye out” for transports of lifts with zebra mussels attached, and report it to the Conservation Officer.
Art Weaver, former President of the Pelican Lake Association, marveled at the progress made in five years at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center.
“We must get into the genetics of these [invasive] animals. This is where the answers are going to come from.” He further said that the University research center “has just sequenced the genome of the zebra mussel DNA.
Once you get that genome structure you can design a protein and go in there and eliminate the reproductive capability. It is probably 2-3 years away.”
Weaver said University researchers told him that early detection was key in combating invasive species. A program for training a statewide network of volunteers called the AIS Detectors Program is now ready to go statewide. For June training sites and information – google “umn detector.”
He stressed that we should be financially supporting the MAISRC (Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Research Center) as well as encouraging DNR AIS staffing.
He reported that Pelican Lake has established a decontamination unit using a car-wash system, first of its kind in the state.
Joe Brodil, WAPOA AIS Director, discussed best management practices (BMP) and ideas with attendees. Attendees shared ideas and suggested BMPs for AIS management that will be distributed to the lake associations and others in the area.
It was agreed that a second AIS Roundtable could be scheduled in the next month or so to address the cooperation with local governments on AIS management and control.