Published August 17, 2011, 07:17 AM

Bye, bye zebras - DNR unveils decontamination unit on Douglas County lake

Zebra mussels, we have had enough of your miserable, meddlesome ways. Minnesota is fighting back. In an attempt to halt the accession of the undesirable invasive species in its lakes, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is rolling out three invasive species decontamination units.

Zebra mussels, we have had enough of your miserable, meddlesome ways.

Minnesota is fighting back. In an attempt to halt the accession of the undesirable invasive species in its lakes, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is rolling out three invasive species decontamination units.

DNR Invasive Species Specialist Nathan Olson and Watercraft Inspection Program Assistant Anna Ness operated a unit for the first time Friday at Lake Carlos State Park.

The main focus of the washes initially will include lakes already infested with zebra mussels, such as Lakes Carlos and L’Homme Dieu and others in the chain.

The units are portable and spray high-pressure hot water to detach zebra mussels and other debris from boats. The target water temperature used on the hull area is 140 degrees.

DNR inspectors at boat access sites will refer some watercraft for pressurized washes with the decontamination unit. The failure to submit to an inspection or wash may result in the loss of a watercraft registration license for one year.

The decontamination process generally takes about 15 minutes or less.

Douglas County will share the unit primarily with Otter Tail County, but it is available for use throughout the entire northwest region of Minnesota.

The DNR asks watercraft operators to inspect all water equipment, pull drain plugs, drain water from all watercraft, bait containers and livewells, clean anchors and remove mussels and plants before leaving the access area.

“If they do that stuff, they won’t have to be inconvenienced,” Olson said. “Boaters are still the first line of defense.”

Enforcement officers may level fines against boaters in violation ranging from $50 to $1,000.

“For the most part, we have not seen many issues,” Olson said.

Inspections for invasive species are on the rise, increasing from 7,954 watercraft inspections in 2009 to 15,600 in 2010 in the northwest region of the state.

Olson anticipates the invasive species program will engage another 10 decontamination units in the near future.

At the present time, 17 people are trained to use the units. The program hopes to hire 20 additional people to implement the procedure.

“We have one of the biggest invasive species programs in the Midwest,” said Olson.

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