Aquatic Invasive Species Inspections Report Released by Cook County Soil & Water Conservation District
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are organisms not native to a water system that were introduced, sometimes inadvertently, into a new marine environment. They are threatening Minnesota waters.
These non-native species harm fish populations, water quality, and water recreation.
In conjunction with the Minnesota DNR, the Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is working to prevent the spread of harmful AIS in and from the roughly 35 bodies of water where one or more AIS are present. There are almost 2,000 bodies of water in Cook County, which means that, so far, the percentage of local lakes/streams infested with AIS is far lower than in other parts of the state.
SWCD receives grants from the State of Minnesota to fund its efforts to stop the introduction and limit the spread of AIS. The grant suggests activities that include oversight, management, county-wide public awareness, AIS monitoring, and ways to enhance compliance with guidelines and rules that are in place in Minnesota to limit the spread of AIS.
Amana Weberg, AIS Program Supervisor, is a part-time employee at SWCD who devotes 100% of her work time to AIS work.
This season, she supervised four DNR-trained Level 1 Watercraft Inspectors who worked at 20 access points on 19 bodies of water. Level 1 includes a visual and tactile inspection of watercraft set to enter or leave a body of water to identify if AIS is present and ensure they are handled appropriately. In addition, the Level 1 inspector ensures that the watercraft owner understands the importance of draining, drying, and cleaning any equipment that comes in contact with the water.
From June through September, 1,127 Level 1 inspections were performed. All inspected watercraft entered the water free of aquatic plants, and all but a handful were recorded as arriving with bilge drain plugs removed as required by state law.
On community engagement, Weberg and 20 volunteers participated in 20 events about AIS or included an AIS component in the event. Over 2,000 residents and visitors were directly engaged during AIS events. SWCD advertised its work to prevent the spread of AIS on billboards, TV, radio, online, and print media.
Local organizations were also involved in AiS work during the year. There were 16 lakes associations, all Cook County Schools, 40 different businesses, five local governments, and the tribal government in Grand Portage.
There is an AIS advisory committee that meets regularly.
Additional AIS prevention aid program information can be found at the SWCD portion of the Cook County website at www.co.cook.mn.us.