A new tool is available for folks who care about St. Louis County, Minn. lakes to guard against aquatic invasive species.
Experts at UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute have compiled an interactive website overlaid with multiple data sets that show 1,139 lakes 5 acres and larger in the county.
There are dozens of categories of data for each lake — from how big they are and what kind of fish to how much calcium they have to how many boat ramps are on the lake and how clear the water is.
You can click to see which lakes have already been infested by specific invasive species. But the website goes much further and can show where boat ramp surveyors have collected data, where boaters at that lake are coming from and what invasive species are in those waters.
The goal is that people can use the site to assess risks for each lake — and then maybe take action to keep invasives out.
Already 143 lakes in St. Louis County are infested with one or more of the 23 invasive species on the official list — critters like zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, rusty crayfish and the Chinese mystery snail and weeds like starry stonewort, purple loostestrife and Eurasian water milfoil. (Lake Vermilion for example, has seven of the 23 invaders already.) These are species that outcompete natives for food and disrupt the food chain or choke out waterways and native habitat. Nearly all the invasive species are moved, inadvertently, by people. Most can’t move far on their own.
You can search the website by lake or search by species, showing how many lakes in the county have each invader.
For some lakes, the data shows anglers and other boaters come from hundreds of miles away, trailering their boats — sometimes still wet from the last lake they were in — to fish in a St. Louis County lake.
The project was the brainchild of the NRRI’s Josh Dumke who applied for a state of Minnesota invasive species prevention grant funneled through St. Louis County. He received $62,000 to develop the project that was unveiled last August.
Now, just in time for boating and fishing season, the site — data.nrri.umn.edu/ais/ — is available for anyone to explore.
The site was designed to be the most helpful to officials as they decide where to get the most bang for their buck when deciding on aquatic invasive species grants for prevention projects.
But the site might also be an eye-opener for cabin and lake home owners and others who care about lakes that haven’t yet seen the benefits of invasive species grants — lakes with small or no formal lake associations that might be in danger of the next infestation.