Stop the invasionWhen it comes to invasive species, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
When it comes to invasive species, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
A new law that went into effect in November is targeting prevention to stop the spread of aquatic invaders in Wisconsin’s waterways.
Under the new law, boaters and anglers cannot transport invasive species on public roadways.
“For years now, it’s been illegal to launch a boat trailer with any aquatic weeds attached,” said Lance Burns, a conservation warden with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “That was a difficult law to enforce because you actually had to wait until somebody launched and if you saw that you wouldn’t allow that because you don’t want any aquatic invasives in that.”
Now, he said, all an officer has to do is see aquatic weeds hanging from a boat or trailer to take enforcement action. And any law enforcement officer – whether a sheriff’s deputy, police officer, state trooper or conservation officer – can enforce the new law that comes with fines that range from $232 and can go up to $767.
“A second violation within three years can go up to $2,600, so it can get pretty expensive in a hurry,” Burns said. He said while the majority of people try to keep their equipment free of aquatic weeds voluntarily, the law gives the DNR and law enforcement tools needed to help stop the spread of invasive species.
“The best way to control the aquatic invasives is to stop it before it gets in,” Burns said. “Once they get into the water, they’re difficult to control.”
And several of Douglas County’s waterways have fallen victim to invasive species, including curly-leaf pondweed, Eurasian water milfoil, freshwater jellyfish, rusty crayfish, zebra mussel, and Chinese and banded mystery snail. Affected waterways include Amnicon, Cranberry and Crystal Lakes, Eau Claire River, Lake Nebagamon, lower Eau Claire Lake, Minong Flowage, Mud Lake, St. Croix River, St. Croix Flowage and Upper St. Croix Lake inland, and Lake Superior, St. Louis River and Superior Bay.
Boaters are required to drain the water from their boats at the landing or in an adjacent parking area including live wells and bait wells, and motors, Burns said. He said then boaters are required to do a visual inspection and remove any aquatic weeds that may be attached to the boat, trailer or vehicle used to pull the boat from the water. After that, Burns said, the boater is set to go.
The DNR also recommends using a power washer, hot soapy water or allowing the boat to dry out for 24 hours to five days before moving from an infested water to another body of water. The DNR uses a diluted bleach solution to kill any microscopic organisms, Burns said.
“Boat traffic has just about doubled this year,” said Jim Heim of the St. Croix Lake Association.
Monitors are out at some of the landings this summer to assist boaters in understanding the new regulations
Bud Hinaus said the St. Croix Lake Association had monitors out at three of the major landings on the lake for three-hour shifts the weekend of June 14. He said monitors assisted more than 1,000 boaters traveling in 486 boats that single weekend.
Wisconsin law also disallows live fish to be taken from a body of water, but anglers can ice their take. It requires minnows to be purchased from a Wisconsin bait dealer, and unwanted bait must be disposed of in the trash if it won’t be used in the same waterway.
With boating traffic expected to balloon the Fourth of July weekend, the association plans to have monitors out again.
Burns said with the law in its first year, the primary objective is to educate boaters about the law and its requirements.
“Our big push is going to be over the Fourth of July holiday,” Burns said. “There’s going to be a huge influx here; there will be a lot of people around … We’re going to be stopping people and talking to them about the law. We’re going to start out as much as possible an educational approach this year and start enforcement action when people are aware of the law. If people don’t want to follow it then we’ll have to step it up.”