Tag: AIS

AIS remains a top priority

small body of water completely infested with Hydrilla

AIS continues to spread in MN and more species are on the way. You’ve heard that before, but it remains the case as we start 2024. Each year we get more infestations of species already discovered in MN and there are new species on the way. Read on to find out to learn more about the growth of AIS in MN, and what’s coming soon to a lake near you.

Also, there are three educational events listed below focused on AIS topics.

The chart below for four key aquatic invasive species is current as of January 17, 2024. Zebra mussels and spiny waterfleas are highlighted as they have significant impacts on the ecology of the water with corresponding impacts to the fish food chain. Starry stonewort and Eurasian watermilfoil are highlighted because they impact the navigation and therefore the ability to recreate on the lake. This simple growth chart, from MN DNR data as of November 30, 2023, provides some good news and bad.

The good news is that spiny waterflea infestations have leveled out and the growth rate for Eurasian watermilfoil infestations is slowing

The bad news is that zebra mussel infestations keep climbing and although not in the same league as the others, starry stonewort infestations are growing.

But more AIS is still on its way to MN and could be here already, but we haven’t yet identified it as such. The damage from most of the incoming AIS are “typical of invasives” in that they displace native species and may negatively change the ecology of the water. But one of these future invaders is debilitating to recreation on the water, and that is hydrilla.

Hydrilla roots in the lakebed and has long stems (up to 25 feet in length) that branch at the surface forming dense mats making boating very difficult. As noted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: “Hydrilla is an aquatic plant that has earned the illustrious title world’s worst invasive aquatic plant”. While not yet in Minnesota, hydrilla infestations are extensive in Florida where it was unintentionally introduced, then the infestations traveled up the eastern part of the US, with major infestations found in New York.

Two images of Hydrilla - one long shot and one closeup

And hydrilla is also heading north into the Midwest. In 2023, Hydrilla was found in Berrien County in southwestern Michigan, in the town of Crystal Lake in northeastern Illinois, and in the Mississippi River near Davenport, Iowa.

Here is a current map of hydrilla infestations in the central and eastern US.

map of eastern US showing Hydrilla infestations
USGS Hydrilla verticillate infestation map as of December 18, 2023

A recent NY Times article reported on the hydrilla challenges faced on the Connecticut River, the longest river in New England as they try to contain it from moving to 4 other states. Transmission through rivers makes control very challenging and boater movement between infested rivers and lakes brings the invasive inland. Connecticut has given up on eradication and hope to beat the infestation back year after year with herbicides and education. Sound familiar? They are also working with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center on a novel approach using red tracer dye to help find the right dosage of herbicides to kill the hydrilla and not hurt the native plants.

So, if there is any one take-away from this update on AIS, it is that you should not let your guard down. Protect the lakes and river you love as best you can. Push the MN Legislature to do more, push the MN DNR to do more, push your local government units to do more, push your lake and river associations to do more, and push your friends and neighbors to do more!

Michigan releases new guides for shoreline improvement

Michigan EGLE title block with a shoreline pictured on the right

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has developed a variety of new resources to assist individuals who want to improve their shoreline and learn more about bio-engineering and other inland lake best management practices. While Michigan’s regulations may be slightly different from Minnesota’s, the concepts for shoreline protection are the same, and anyone wanting to improve their shore can benefit from a review of this material.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has developed a variety of new resources to assist individuals who want to improve their shoreline and learn more about bio-engineering and other inland lake best management practices. These have recently been published on EGLE’s Shoreline Protection website.

Five new fact sheets: 

Six new documents have also been created with illustrations and corresponding plans to implement best management practices for shoreline protection and lake health.

Note: these documents are consistent with Michigan’s shoreline regulations. While Michigan’s regulations may be slightly different from Minnesota’s, the concepts for shoreline protection are the same, and anyone wanting to improve their shore can benefit from a review of this material.

AIS Infestations rising in 2023

Chart of AIS growth in MN 1995-2023-starry stonewort, zebra mussel, and EWM

Death by a thousand cuts! We can become immune to the repeated announcements of new lakes becoming infested with AIS, but we shouldn’t. The season for reporting AIS infestations is not over and we should expect the 2023 numbers will grow.

The 3 species graphed above threaten the recreational value of our public waters, and they keep growing, increasing the annual costs to keep the species under control and the lakes usable.

So far in 2023, we have 6 new infestations of starry stonewort: up from 22 since 2015. That’s a 27% increase this year alone. A troubling growth rate for a very troubling species that is still early in its infestation life cycle.

Zebra mussel infestations year to date are up 17 on a base of 582. If that low double-digit increase holds, it will have been a good year. Be aware that more infestations typically get identified as we pull out boats, docks, and lifts.

Eurasian watermilfoil only racked up 2 new infestations so far, so perhaps it’s trending down. And that’s good.

While waterbody counts may be slowing, you should be aware that most large lakes in Minnesota have 1 or more AIS, and the percentage of Minnesota’s surface water infested with AIS is very high.

Vanishing natural shorelines hurt lake quality

Image of the front cover of the report

In June 2022, Paul Radomski from the MN DNR presented the ideas from this newly released paper at our MN COLA Annual meeting. This was one of the sessions in our Lake Resiliency series.

Now the Vanishing Natural Shorelines paper has been published and you can read the whole story of how the loss of natural shorelines contributes to the degrading of lake quality. Tom Nelson, MN COLA Secretary and Itasca County SWCD Board member, was a key contributor from MN COLA. We encourage you to read and disseminate this document.

As Steve Kloiber from the MN DNR has written: “The Minnesota Natural Shoreline Partnership was formed around the idea that regulatory approaches to shoreland protection have not been sufficient to stop the loss of natural shoreland. This group has chosen to focus on the idea that there is a need to change social norms around how people think of their shoreline.”

We should individually and collectively do everything we can to stop the loss of natural shorelines and reclaim lost shorelines. Let’s change the social norm so natural shorelines are preferred.

ACCL deploys new AIS cleaning tool stations with Cass County

The Association of Cass County Lakes (ACCL) developed a low-cost AIS cleaning station and is deploying it with help from Cass County. Nick Bluhm from ACCL and Steve Henry from Cass County presented their best-practices solution at the September MN COLA meeting.

A summary of the solution and the program to deploy is linked below.

Lakeland PBS recently broadcasted a new segment covering the project. Watch it here.

Email Nick Bluhm at cleaningstations@acclakes.org for more information including how you can adapt the solution for your use.

Free to a good home: Specialized lake netting

Netting that was used for on Lake Koronis as part of a pilot project to control starry stonewort is available for free to a good home.

Each net is 300’ long, 6’ deep, and plastic coated. 4 nets are available: 2 nets have 3/8” holes, 2 nets have 3/16” holes. The nets have floats on the top and weights on the bottom. The nets were decontaminated and have been in storage since 2017. Other details are available.

Contact Kevin@Farnum.info if your lake association can use any of these nets for any purpose.

Updates from MN COLA’s Annual Meeting

Our Annual Meeting in Little Falls last week was a great success with terrific speakers and insightful discussions! Over 30 people joined us for our first in-person meeting since late 2019.

As a follow-up to the meeting, we have attached two items for your use:

  • Draft minutes from the meeting (these will be approved at our September meeting)
  • An update on the 2023 Legislative Session from Jeff Forester of Minnesota Lakes and River’s Advocates

At the meeting we unanimously elected 7 new members to the MN COLA Board for 3-year terms, and we are excited to have a full complement of 15 Directors! Our Board Members and their term are listed here. Note that terms end in June of the noted year.

  • Blaine Barkley – 2024
  • Jan Believeau – 2024
  • Biz Clark – 2026
  • Kevin Farnum – 2024
  • Jeff Forester – 2026
  • Steve Frawley – 2026
  • Lynn Goodrich – 2025
  • Jim Gray – 2026
  • David Helgerson – 2024
  • Kathy Jonsrud – 2025
  • Jim Kutzner – 2025
  • Tom Nelson – 2025
  • Ruth Schaefer – 2025
  • Joe Shneider – 2024
  • Tom Watson – 2026

We noted we were doing a “last call” for the 2023 Communications Survey. If you haven’t yet taken the survey, it would be great if you could carve out a few minutes to do it.

AIS continues to spread in Minnesota

tiny-zebra-mussels-on-the-back-of a-hand
Zebra mussels can clog water supply inputs creating problems for homeowners and municipalities

It’s still early in season for AIS detection, but zebra mussels continue their march through Minnesota. As of June 29, 11 new zebra mussel infested water bodies were added to the MN DNR’s Infested Waters List: 6 in Wright County, 2 in Otter Tail County, and 1 each in Hubbard, Kandiyohi, and Stearns Counties.

In addition to these new zebra mussel infestations, Eurasian watermilfoil was confirmed in 1 lake in Le Sueur County and starry stonewort was confirmed in 1 lake in Kandiyohi County.