Aquatic Invasive Species A Five-Year Initiative Foundation Project to Evaluate the Effectiveness of AIS Prevention Strategies Throughout Minnesota

Funding for the Initiative Foundation’s statewide aquatic invasive species program was recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) and approved by the Minnesota Legislature through the Outdoor Heritage Fund, one of four funds established by the 2008 Minnesota Clean Water Land & Legacy constitutional amendment.

Final Report Preamble

Report authors:

  • Don Hickman, vice president for community and economic development at the Initiative Foundation
  • John Sumption, Aquatic Invasive Species Project Manager and contractor to the Initiative Foundation

In spring 2014, the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) recommended support, subsequently approved by the Minnesota Legislature, to award $4,040,000 “to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with the Central Minnesota Initiative Fund (Initiative Foundation) to develop a series of statewide pilot projects to enhance aquatic habitat by preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS), including pilot projects conducting education and outreach, inspection and decontamination, enforcement, and other activities.”

The appropriation continued: “All pilot projects must be conducted on a reimbursement basis and require a match of non-outdoor heritage fund dollars. A required evaluation of results must be funded with non-outdoor heritage fund dollars. The required evaluation must evaluate the efficacy of inspection and decontamination activities utilized in any of the pilot projects in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. A list of pilot projects must be included in the required final report. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2019. The accomplishment plan must accelerate the start of the pilot project.”

A subsequent amendment extended the project end date to June 30, 2020.

The Initiative Foundation initially convened a diverse group of stakeholders to help articulate a Request for Proposals (RFP), and this was published in July 2014. The advisory group was selected to include sector, geographic and gender diversity. It included:

  • Dr. Douglas Jensen, University of Minnesota – Duluth Sea Grant Program
  • Jay Green, Anglers for Habitat
  • Gabriel Jabbour, representing the recreational boating sector
  • John Barton, Three Rivers Park District
  • Dr. Kristin Blann, The Nature Conservancy
  • Pat Conzemius, Wildlife Forever
  • Terra Guetter, Pelican River Watershed District
  • Joe Shneider, Lake Minnetonka Association/Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations
  • Jeff Forester, Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates
  • Dr. Peter Sorenson, University of Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Laboratory
  • Heidi Wolf, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  • Barb Halbakken, Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations

We intentionally sought projects that would surface emerging science or strategies for the prevention of the spread of AIS; new mechanisms for sustainable funding or administration; new partnerships (ideally bringing together stakeholder groups that had not previously collaborated), or communications strategies that could impact groups previously disengaged from these issues.

In response to the original RFP, an initial pilot class of projects was selected, and as implementation highlighted areas of confusion or which were “open to interpretation,” the language of the RFP was improved for clarity in subsequent cycles of funding until a total of 17 projects were offered matching funds.

Each project was required to provide matching funds (either cash or in-kind) from sources other than the Outdoor Heritage Fund, established by the 2008 Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment, and to engage with a team from the University of Minnesota (Drs. Mae Davenport and Amit Pradhananga) to incorporate rigorous evaluation techniques into the design of all projects to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of AIS prevention efforts.

In addition to the 17 projects designed to prevent the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species, funding from the LSOHC also supported two “Aquatic Invader Summits” in St. Cloud (in the winters of 2015 and 2016). The goal of these summits was to bridge knowledge, social expectations and policy opportunities or challenges across the scientific, recreational, and commercial interests. Each event attracted more than 400 participants and helped to highlight the commitment of the LSOHC and Minnesota Legislature to explore innovation in how our state responds to the ecological and economic threats associated with AIS.

Funded Projects

A total of 17 projects have been awarded grants through the Initiative Foundation-administered aquatic invasive species program. A short description of each project appears below:

  • Boat Bucket Water Project (Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District): Starting in 2018, this project partnered with up to 20 Aitkin County bait shops and resorts at the start of the fishing opener. In Minnesota, to transport minnows from one lake to another, state law says anglers should replace the water in their buckets with tap or spring water. Partner bait shops provide customers with a free gallon of water that is used to replenish bait buckets when anglers move from one lake to another. Bait customers who use the bags are offered a $0.50 discount on their next bait purchase, or $1 off an artificial bait purchase. Bait shop owners receive compensation of $0.50 for every gallon of water they distribute.
  • Boat Traffic Analysis—A Predictive Model (Vermilion Lake Association): This effort sought to identify key metrics to increase watercraft inspection efficiency. By plotting hour-by-hour arrivals and departures on Vermilion and Burntside lakes, organizers sought to implement a fast and flexible scheduling system to increase convenience for anglers while optimizing savings and maximizing the number of inspections.
  • Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District: This project sought to target and reduce the presence of Eurasian Water Milfoil on Big Marine Lake (Washington County) by 50 percent through an integrated pest-management treatment program.
  • Carver County Water Management Organization (Carver County): This project aimed to reduce wait times at AIS inspection sites by establishing a "proof of inspection" tagging system that allows qualifying outbound boaters an expedited inspection process when leaving Lake Waconia or Minnewashta.
  • Carver County Zebra Mussel Control Project (Waconia and Minnewashta lakes): This project involved removal of floating vegetation, hand-removal of rooted vegetation and the potential use of dock-mounted thrusters to clear floating debris from public water accesses. The object was to decrease by 50 percent the number of watercraft leaving the lake with zebra mussels and other aquatic invaders attached to plant matter. Success was evaluated by comparing DNR inspection survey data to data collected from previous years.
  • Cass County Environmental Services—Enhanced Training for AIS Inspectors: This grant supported an expansion of the basic training provided by the DNR and provided additional training in conflict resolution, de-escalation techniques and the basic precepts in AIS limnology and ecology.
  • Citizen’s League’s Civic Governance Project (Cass & Ramsey counties): This project sought to increase coordination and collaboration between state/local governments and stakeholder groups. By taking a policy approach through coaching, work plan development and project coordination—and by linking sportsmen/women groups, lake associations, property owners and tourism and fishing professionals—the project goal was to maximize local engagement while providing a model that can be used in other regions of the state.
  • Crow River Organization for Water (CROW) Joint Powers Board: This project targets younger generations (ages 10 through 25) with education and outreach efforts intended to internalize the importance of AIS prevention.
  • Advance Registration for Inspection and Decontamination (Kandiyohi County): The program sought to maximize convenience for residents and visiting boaters alike by supporting a “reservation system” by which you could schedule an inspection and/or decontamination in advance of your launch, to assure the fastest turnaround and convenience.
  • Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District: This project enabled an aggressive trapping campaign in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area targeting rusty crayfish, a resilient species that was initially introduced as bait but now is threatening to wipe out native crayfish populations and significantly reduce aquatic vegetation populations, including wild rice.
  • Lake Koronis Association (Stearns County) to Manage Starry Stonewort: This project provided resources to combat starry stonewort growing in Lake Koronis, a macroalgae that appears in dense mats which impairs fishery reproduction, chokes native vegetation and impedes recreational activities.
  • Crow Wing County (on behalf of the Mississippi Headwaters Board): This project supported the marketing and placement of educational AIS videos in the metro area television market and on social media to appeal to younger recreationalists and promote AIS preventative measures.
  • Resort Ambassador Program (Cass and Itasca counties and Lake Vermilion area): This project worked with resort, lodge, campground and marina owners to participate in early detection efforts. A gap exists in AIS detection at private-sector marinas and other boat launching areas. Through training, compensation and participant recognition, it was anticipated that the resort ambassador project would create wider regional networks. The project also rewards private-access inspections, encourages early detection and enhanced stewardship—all with the goal of long-term sustainability for Minnesota's tourism and angling industries.
  • Voyageurs National Park/National Park Service: Non-native cattails have invaded wetlands in Voyageurs National Park, displacing native vegetation, reducing biodiversity, degrading fish/wildlife habitat, impairing recreational opportunities and degrading cultural resources—especially wild rice. This project involved the removal of non-native cattails followed by re-establishment of native vegetation to restore wetland communities.
  • Wildlife Forever and CD3, LLC: A prototype Clean, Drain, Dry and Dispose cleaning system was placed at select outstate and metro locations. User behaviors was monitored and evaluated to assess the effectiveness of user-operated systems.
  • Wildlife Forever to Support Interactive Educational Outreach in the Vermillion Lake Watershed: This program focused on the promotion of the "Stop, Drain and Dry" AIS prevention campaign's best practices, locations of decontamination or inspection services and other AIS resources.
  • Wright County Regional Inspection Coalition—AIS Prevention Strategies: This project provided resources to assist with the rollout of a comprehensive AIS management and prevention strategy for Wright County lakes, including Lakes East and West Sylvia, Sugar and Clearwater.

Project Impact on Preventing the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species

The following content provides summaries of each project, including their goals, outcomes and lessons learned. For brevity, these summaries have been kept as short as possible and contain excerpted content from the grantees’ full reports. Readers may see “we”-type statements and should conclude that what they are reading is from the report authors. Content has been cleaned up to form full and complete sentences. Comprehensive reports submitted for each of the 17 projects will be turned over to the Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates organization for public access on their website.

Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District

Boat Bucket Water Project

The goal of this project was to measure an increase in compliance with the bait water exchange that is required by Minnesota aquatic invasive species law. Current compliance percentage is estimated to be less than 50%. Our goal is an increase in compliance of at least 30% (to 80% or higher).

How has your goal (as stated in your application) evolved since the project began? Did you achieve the desired results?

Our goals included the increase of knowledge and compliance with the requirement to drain and replace bait water upon leaving a waterbody. This action reduces the risk of AIS transfer between waterbodies. We did increase the knowledge and to some extent the compliance with this part of the AIS regulations. It appears that this part of the AIS regulation has less widespread support than removal of drain plugs (for instance). Anglers seem a little weary of "another thing that we have to do".

If you or others were to replicate this project, what guidance might you share based on your experience implementing this project? Do you think this project would be worthwhile for others to undertake?

Start small and be patient. The positive results for us have come slowly (although we have had positive results). A regional approach might be more successful as more boaters get used to the idea and the need for replacing bait water.

Discuss the elements of your project that have not worked as expected or need to be changed. Did you discover any limitations that would make this project infeasible for others? If so, what?

Everything has worked fairly well. The numbers of bags handed out, and used, and returned has been lower than we anticipated. I think this is a project that will gradually be accepted by anglers. We intend to continue the project with local funds.

Discuss the limiting factors in assessing the viability of this strategy. Money? Manpower? Time? Other?

We believe that the limiting factor is time. Over time, the project will gradually catch on.

Goals and Outcomes

Our goal was to change behavior of anglers and limit the threat of transfer of AIS between waterbodies. The actual outcome is a slow progress toward anglers using this service. Bait shops have generally embraced this project and have given us their floor space, wall space, and time to help it become successful. Two huge successes have been with two resorts on Mille Lacs Lake. They are engaged and are insisting that everyone follow the requirements of draining and replacing bait water. Perhaps they are much more in tune with AIS since Mille Lacs is the primary AIS-infested lake in our area. General knowledge of the requirement to exchange bait water has increased. Banners, signs, education from our boat inspectors, news articles and radio have all been used to get the word out.

Discuss the overall impact this project had on your AIS of concern. Did you make a difference? Did your local community support the project?

We did make a difference. Our hope was that the public would embrace this concept immediately but that did not happen. As mentioned, bait shops were mostly cooperative, but the acceptance by anglers is slow and steady.

Discuss your relationship with the DNR in implementing this project.

The DNR was not directly involved in this project.

What did your overall evaluation of the project reveal?

This project has to be long-term. We are trying to change anglers' perceptions and actions.

Vermilion Lake Association

Boat Traffic Analysis: A Predictive Model

This effort puts metrics in motion to increase watercraft inspection efficiency. By plotting hour-by-hour arrivals and departures on Vermilion and Burntside lakes for an entire boating season, organizers plan to implement a fast and flexible scheduling system that will increase convenience for anglers and tourists while optimizing savings and maximizing the number of watercraft inspections. Approved for up to $31,775 in January 2018.

Prevention Strategies

  • Develop methods to improve boat access traffic forecasts at Lake Vermilion area public accesses.
  • Develop efficient methods to deploy Level 1 inspectors, including last-minute changes.
  • Develop an affordable ongoing process to increase efficiency (boats inspected per inspector hour) beyond the 15% improvement during the project period.

For the most part, the project’s goals remained constant during the grant period. We have realized, however, that we need to forecast both trailered boat traffic and the risk level of that boat traffic for maximum benefit.

We have also seen, when forecasting risk-per-boat, that boats arriving at resorts present a much higher risk on average than those at public accesses. This observation influenced the Resort Ambassador Project and confirmed that 100% inspection of incoming resort boats was the right objective.

The inclusion of risk changed the way we think about goal No. 3: Continually reducing Vermilion’s risk by intercepting the highest-risk boats rather than the simpler boats-per-hour metric.

If you or others were to replicate this project, what guidance might you share based on your experience? Do you think this project would be worthwhile for others to undertake?

Resources to combat AIS will never be completely adequate. All organizations and lakes will want to use the resources they do have to reduce the risk of infestation as much as possible. But all lakes and counties are different. Vermilion is one lake with 17 public access and about two dozen resorts that service 16,000 boats arriving from everywhere. Other situations involve multiple lakes, one access per lake and more local traffic.

Guidance: Match risk and traffic forecasts to each situation. Keep it simple to reduce burden on volunteers and funding. Don’t focus on perfection. Just get the big picture right. Watch for special situations to exploit, like a high-risk campground which could implement 100% inspections and/or a self-serve cleaning kiosk. Contact our team, which would be pleased to host a workshop explaining all we’ve learned and provide recommendations.

Discuss the elements of your project that have not worked as expected or need to be changed. Did you discover any limitations that would make this project infeasible for others? If so, what?

Counting boats at public accesses takes more time, more manpower and has more pitfalls than anticipated. Magnetic sensors can be unreliable, trail camera images are time-consuming to interpret, inspection surveys only cover times and places where inspectors have been deployed. The current process works to provide sound staffing recommendations, but significant work is still needed make the process affordable.

Discuss the limiting factors in assessing the viability of this strategy. Money? Manpower? Time? Other?

Funding and manpower lead the list. It’s important to remember that good traffic and risk forecasts can save inspector funding and manpower in the end.

Goals and Outcomes

Goal 1: Develop methods to improve boat access traffic forecasts at Lake Vermilion area public accesses.

Error Correction for DNR Inspection Survey Data. GPS coordinates for each inspection were used to correct the inspection location recorded by the inspector, improving the accuracy of the access traffic history which feeds the forecast. Using inspector time cards records to properly evaluate low-traffic situations was abandoned as too expensive for the benefit provided.

Additional Traffic Data to Supplement Survey Data. Counting boats at public accesses takes more time and manpower and has more pitfalls than anticipated. Magnetic sensors were abandoned as unreliable. Trail cameras are used to understand special situations, but interpreting images is too expensive for routine use. Conclusion: DNR and resort survey data will be the primary historical data for traffic and risk forecasting. Affordable and reasonably reliable.

Traffic Forecast Algorithm Development. Regression analysis of existing traffic data to predict future traffic was abandoned, at least temporarily, in favor of a more manual approach for 2019. The existing data was too sparse and contained too many errors for automated projections. While the manual approach was necessary for 2019 early season staffing recommendations, a more automated process using industry-standard time series forecasting based on three years of DNR survey data was implemented in time for the 2020 inspection season.

Adjusting Traffic Predictions for Risk. This refinement to an all-boats-are-equal concept is a critical step forward. We recognize boats coming from other lakes, especially lakes with known AIS infestations posing a threat to Vermilion, present a higher risk than those coming out of storage or returning to Vermilion having just left Vermilion. Forecasted traffic is weighted by forecasted last-lake probability—a key measure of risk—to deploy inspectors at the locations and times to minimize the overall risk to Lake Vermilion.

Goal 2: Develop efficient methods to deploy Level 1 inspectors, including last-minute changes.

Deploying Inspectors for Maximum Protection. Based on traffic and risk forecasts, inspector deployment options were modeled in Excel to simultaneously provide 1) low inspection cost/ high boats-per-hour at staffed accesses, 2) a focus on high-risk boats, and 3) coverage with a high percentage of incoming boats inspected, while 4) staying within the inspection budget.

Staffing Agency Efficiency. The spreadsheet format for communicating traffic/risk-based staffing recommendations was fine tuned for ease-of-use by the temporary staffing agency. Each shift was marked with the priority (e.g., A or B) and with the expected traffic during the shift. This allowed the staffing agency to make sound last-minute decisions should they be short inspectors on a specific day.

Goal 3: Develop an affordable ongoing process to increase efficiency (boats inspected per inspector hour), beyond the 15% improvement during the project period.

The inclusion of risk changed the way we think about goal No. 3: Continually reducing Vermilion’s risk by intercepting the highest-risk boats rather than the simpler boats-per-hour metric. Inspection program efficiency and optimization will continue indefinitely, as AIS prevention funding will always be limited.

For 2020, we expect our boats-per-hour metric to be above 2.5, up from 2.2 in 2018. That number would likely have been higher still, but some higher-risk locations/times took precedence over those with high traffic but modest risk levels.

Discuss the overall impact this project had on your AIS of concern. Did you make a difference? Did your local community support the project?

Resources to combat AIS will never be completely adequate. We must strive to do the best we can with the funding and volunteers we can muster. Efficiency and focus are paramount. The local community, including our resort and lake business partners, understand this and support all we do.

Discuss your relationship with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in implementing this project.

The DNR survey database was and will continue to be the primary source of historical risk and traffic data for forecasting. The Vermillion Lake Association appreciates the agency's contributions.

What did your overall evaluation of the project reveal?

Progress and issues were continually evaluated as the project progressed. The end-of-project evaluation provided no surprises not previously identified.

Jeff Dahlberg (left), Big Marine Lake AIS program data manager and surveyor, and Mike Blehert, lake association president and AIS project field coordinator.

Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District

Increased effectiveness of treating Eurasian Water Milfoil in Big Marine Lake

The objective of this project is to 1) reduce Eurasian Watermilfoil (EWM) to less than 10 acres by the end of 2019; 2) to achieve 50% EWM biomass reduction and restoration of native plants; 3) and to achieve 50% spot-treating effectiveness.

Goal 1: The first goal was exceeded since the projection for 2020 is less than five acres of EWM in 2020. The actual results for 2019 were as follows:

  • August 30, 2019: Only 2.4 acres (0.1 to 0.4-acre spots) of EWM were found and treated with Diquat.
  • October 20, 2019, final survey: Raking and observation on a sunny calm day found zero acres of EWM.
  • If all of the 2.4 acres of EWM treated with Diquat grows back in 2020 and all of the 1.9 acres of the areas that the Big Marine Lake Association (BLMA) spot-treated during the summer also grow back in 2020, there will be 4.3 acres to treat in 2020. The more likely amount of EWM that will need treatment in 2020 in about five to eight small spots will total two to three acres.

Goal 2: There was zero remaining EWM biomass at the end of the 2019 season, exceeding the goal of 50% reduction. The number of native plants species increased, far surpassing the goal of 50% reduction. The (BMLA) soon realized that native plant species thrive when EWM is eliminated in one season. In 2019, there was significant new growth of native plants in all the treated areas and no evidence of dead native plant biomass. The DNR’s most recent point intercept survey of native plants in Big Marine Lake (BML) was conducted in late 2017. Results were excellent with 29 native plant species and “richness” of native plants in the littoral zone of the lake. The DNR surveyed the lake in 2010, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Quote from DNR point intercept survey: “Native abundance and species richness have remained high during this timeframe.” (2010 to 2017). At the September 18, 2019, Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) seminar, a breakout session topic was: “Restoring native plants after treating EWM.” This has not been a problem in BML since the EWM is treated and killed in early to mid-June before most of the native plants start their fast growth. If the EWM doesn’t die, however, the decaying biomass can kill native plants. And if the EWM grows back, repeating this process for several years can cause significant loss of native plants.

Goal 3: The spot treatment goal was difficult to measure since many of the areas treated were less than 200 square feet in size. Sometimes it was even difficult to find these small areas to confirm results. During the course of the project, however, the BMLA is certain that the 50% goal was realized. Changes made during the project to achieve this goal included:

  • Root ball injection with liquid DMA4 herbicide was introduced in the spring of 2017 when the EWM was less than three feet tall. Treatment areas were marked with stakes and treated under the supervision of a DNR observer. Result: 100% kill in the 50 to 200 square-foot areas or larger areas with low-density single plants in water seven or less feet deep.
  • DMA4 liquid ($400 to $500/acre) applied in the water column in .1 to 0.25-acre areas in June. These treatments were typically about 30% effective because of dilution in these long narrow (15 to 20-foot-wide) bands.
  • Renovate OTF granular herbicide ($2,200/acre) was applied in late June, July and August to all areas not killed by injection or DMA4. This granular herbicide sank and started to release the herbicide off the clay beads as it reached the bottom. Our work and research papers report better results with this expensive herbicide.
  • Diquat applied late season to kill rootlets and starve the root balls.
  • Experience, and application timing of these different herbicides improved spot-treating effectiveness, primarily in 2018 and 2019. An examination of our data for all of the areas treated since 2009, and the 2.4-acre August 2019, Diquat permit map, and it became immediately apparent that this massive reduction in EWM area could not have been achieved without laborious and aggressive spot-treating of single plants and small spots. As mentioned, the late season treatment with Diquat killed almost all of the rootlets in late 2019. This “new” herbicide application timing bodes well for helping to ensure that the repopulation of cleared areas will be significantly reduced in future years.

During this five-year project, all areas of EWM larger than five acres were killed when treated during the first year (2015) with herbicide that cost about $750/acre. During the ensuing years, the remaining EWM was typically found in long and narrow spots ranging from 0.2 to about 2.5 acres and was treated with herbicides that were better suited for these conditions.

Cost increased to $2,150 to $2,450/acre. Even though the number of acres was reduced to about 10/year (a 50% reduction in EWM), yearly treatment cost increased from about $17,000 to $27,000. By the end of 2019 (the last year of the project), EWM had been reduced to less than five acres, another 50% reduction.

Relationship with DNR in implementing this project: The lake association worked closely with the DNR. At times, they reported that some of DNR’s input seemed excessive or restricting. In hindsight, however, they later realized they were pushing the envelope. DNR was examining the BMLA plan(s) from a regulatory perspective and to determine how they could help implement the program. Personal contact with the DNR, typically at meetings during the winter off-season, and continued communication during the summer and at many seminars, resulted in a good data- and idea-sharing relationship. One example of their interest in our work is that the DNR conducted far more than expected whole lake point intercept surveys (expensive and at no charge) of BML in 2010, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Keegan Lund relayed that BMLA’s work has been important to help ensure continued good health of one of his favorite lakes. They planned to conduct another survey in 2019, but weather and other priorities (i.e., a new infestation of starry stonewort in another region of the state) interfered.

Eurasion Watermilfoil plants develop rootlets late in the season that self fracture and spread to new areas.

Carver County Water Management Organization

Project No. 1: Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Project

The goal of this project was to 1) provide accessible, centralized decontamination services to boaters of Carver County and the state; 2) determined feasibility of "proof of decontamination" tagging system.

Goal 1: The results of this goal were an overall success. The project was able to provide decontamination services on Lake Waconia for four boating seasons. The county would have liked to see a higher number of users, but the service was used and mostly appreciated.

Goal 2: The "proof of inspection" tagging program was not approved by the DNR, and therefore was not implemented after 2015. While the tagging program aimed to make boat inspections and decontaminations faster and easier, it was determined that it may weaken the state inspection program as a whole. The recognition was that just because a boat has been inspected and/or decontaminated, doesn't necessarily mean that every AIS has been found. The county and the DNR ultimately concluded that if inspectors were on duty they should be utilized, even if some inspections are redundant.

Project No. 2: Vegetation Control as an AIS Prevention Measure

Prevention Strategies

How has your goal (as stated in your application) evolved since the project began? Did you achieve the desired results?

The goal of this project has largely remained the same, but some details have changed since its inception. The lakes that received vegetation management were: Lake Minnewashta, Piersons Lake, Wasserman Lake and Lake Bavaria. These lakes were chosen by staff and stakeholders as the lakes that would probably produce the most vegetation around the boat launches. We also decided against the use of Hydrosweepers based on recommendations from the DNR. Our goal was to see if vegetation management at and around public accesses would lead to at least a 50% reduction of aquatic plants found on boats and trailers upon exiting watercraft inspections over a two-year period. We found that the number of exiting inspections with vegetation found was fairly consistent with pre-treatment years on lakes Minnewashta and Bavaria, about a 50% reduction on Piersons and about a 75% reduction on Wasserman. Lake Waconia and Lotus were used as controls, meaning that no vegetation management was conducted. Lake Waconia had a slight reduction in the number of exiting inspections with vegetation and Lotus a slight increase. Overall, the results of this investigation do not show that vegetation control at the specified public water accesses reduces the number of exiting inspection where vegetation is found by 50% or more. More data is needed to determine if this form of AIS management is effective in minimizing the spread of aquatic plants and AIS.

If you or others were to replicate this project, what guidance might you share based on your experience implementing this project? Do you think this project would be worthwhile for others to undertake?

This project could be a worthwhile undertaking with a more scientifically rigorous approach. There are many more variable to account for such as the native and invasive plant community abundance of the lakes, weather and wind direction, variability in plant growth and time of year, floating vs. rooted plants, etc. It would also be helpful to quantify the amount of vegetation found on exiting inspections as well of the number of inspections where vegetation is found. We would suggest partnering with a researcher to help design a more effective experiment.

Discuss the elements of your project that have not worked as expected or need to be changed. Did you discover any limitations that would make this project infeasible for others? If so, what?

We planned to also study the effectiveness of Hydrosweepers at public accesses but decided against this because of multiple factors: the potential damage to habitat, cost to power the units, and safety issues with placing the fans in highly used areas. The main limitation for us was the many variables having an effect on the results.

Discuss the limiting factors in assessing the viability of this strategy. Money? Manpower? Time? Other?

The cost and safety concerns of the Hydrosweeper were a limiting factor but the main factor for us was the limited information learned from the number of exiting inspections where vegetation was found on boats and trailers. The results were inconclusive, and one would need to design a more scientific study including other variables like those mentioned above.

Goals and Outcomes

Goal 1: We would like to see at least a 50% decrease in the number of exiting watercraft inspections that indicate vegetation was attached at lakes that receive manual vegetation removal.

What was your actual overall outcome of Goal 1 for the entire project?

We did not see a 50% decrease in the number of exiting inspections with vegetation attached overall.

Goal 2: We would like to see at least a 50% decrease in the number of exiting watercraft inspections that indicate vegetation was attached at lakes where the thruster is installed.

What was your actual overall outcome of Goal 2 for the entire project?

This aspect of the project is not being pursued because of doubts about cost effectiveness and potential of disturbing the lake bottom.

Goal 3: Ongoing monitoring through the 2019 season.

What was your actual overall outcome of Goal 3 for the entire project?

Staff was not able to record monthly vegetation densities during Year One because of workload and unfortunately, the contractor did not report all of the amounts of vegetation removed, so we were not able to keep a record of changes in plant densities. We based results solely from visual observations and inspection data. Year Two, however, we worked with the contractor to provide more detailed information via a spreadsheet that is updated weekly. The information was helpful but was not quite detailed enough to get accurate amounts of floating vs. rooted plants. Since we had just one year of this data, we were not able to analyze any trends.

Discuss the overall impact this project had on your AIS of concern. Did you make a difference? Did your local community support the project?

This project stemmed from a conversation at one of our annual AIS Community Stakeholder Forums where we meet with partners and community members to discuss ideas involving AIS prevention and management in Carver County. The project was met with support and is a great example of how meeting with your local community on a regular basis can get ideas flowing. Even though we did not get the most conclusive results, this project could be a good point for others to start from if interested in investigating creative ways to use limited resources to prevent the spread of AIS.

Discuss your relationship with the DNR in implementing this project.

DNR was helpful and provided needed guidance and permits for this project.

Levy Bergstrom (left), Cass County AIS coordinator, and watercraft inspector Wayne Eckstrom step through the inspection process.

Cass County Environmental Services

Enhanced Training for AIS Inspectors

The objectives of this project were to 1) increase the AIS knowledge of inspectors and to empower inspectors with increased communication, customer service and conflict resolution skills; 2) to increase the return rate of inspectors from season to season to decrease the learning curves each open water season; 3) to increase the retention rate of inspectors throughout the season; and 4) to encourage additional counties to participate in training each spring and to create a usable training video to share with other counties for use in training their AIS inspectors.

If you or others were to replicate this project, what guidance might you share based on your experience in implementing this project?

Based upon what we have gleaned, we think this training could be condensed to one day and would only need be held in the spring prior to the start of inspections and/or decontaminations. We think this would be worthwhile to offer some advanced skills workshops to the lake associations similar to the "detectors" program offered to lake associations.

Discuss the elements of your project that have not worked as expected or need to be changed?

The project involved planning and holding advanced skills workshops. The sessions could have been more streamlined; however, the only real limitations involved the distances the trainers had to travel to be able to conduct Cass County trainings.

Discuss the limiting factors in assessing the viability of this strategy? Money? Manpower? Time? Other?

Distance and timing due to the seasonal nature of the training and hiring of employees were the biggest limiting factors.

Goal 1: To increase the knowledge of AIS inspectors and to empower inspectors with increased communication, customer service and conflict resolution skills.

  • Inspectors are committed and excited about AIS prevention and share their knowledge and stories outside of work.
  • The number of conflicts with boaters has decreased and inspectors are better prepared to handle potential problems.
  • Public education and willingness to participate has increased.
  • Cass County has seen an increase in the willingness of boaters and area businesses to work with inspectors to spread the word about AIS inspection and prevention.

Goal 2: To increase the return rate of inspectors from season to season to decrease seasonal learning curves plus higher inspector retention rates throughout the season.

  • 80% retention in 2018
  • 75% retention in 2019
  • Inspectors from Beltrami and Crow Wing counties are working in Cass County in 2019
  • Better training opportunities have led to better quality inspectors.

Goal 3: To encourage additional counties to participate in training each spring and to create a usable training video to share with other counties for use in training their AIS inspectors.

  • Beltrami, Itasca and Clearwater counties participated in Cass County’s advanced skills training program.
  • Cass County hired a videographer and had videos created of individual training modules for continued use and to share with neighboring counties.
  • Beltrami County has opted to conduct its own advanced skills training program in 2019.
  • Beltrami’s training was open to other counties to attend.

Discuss the overall impact this project had on your AIS of concern. Did you make a difference? Did your local community support the project?

We think all training done makes a difference on the problems we face with AIS such as zebra mussels, starry stonewort, Eurasian watermilfoil, spiny water fleas, etc., and helps to protect our lakes. Cass County communities have supported all AIS education, inspection, decontamination and prevention efforts undertaken, including the advanced skills training for the inspectors.

Discuss your relationship with DNR in implementing this project.

The county worked closely with the DNR in planning and implementing segments of this program. We think this was a cooperative working relationship that was mutually beneficial. We are happy to see the DNR working closely with neighboring counties to advance similar advanced training programs.

What did your overall evaluation of the project reveal?

The project was successful. Given the seasonal nature of the AIS program and the busy schedule planning for the coming season, it is important to make certain that all training classes are delivered in a manner that is easy to comprehend. The direct feedback from inspectors revealed the following:

  • The dispute resolution training was the best segment.
  • The hands-on identification training could have been more basic so the average person could have better understood them.
  • Year-to-year training classes should have been diversified.
  • Fall training was not needed, except perhaps a dispute resolution follow-up.

Overall, we think Cass County is doing well and that by adding additional training we are striving to empower our inspectors and advance our program.

Education and local leadership are key components to build awareness and reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Citizen’s League Civic Governance Project

Increase stakeholder, state/local government coordination, collaboration

The purpose of this project was to 1) identify local leaders with an interest in building coalitions, organizing others, and who have proven to be innovative thinkers; 2) offer one-on-one meetings with lake leaders in these areas to determine best candidates for Civic Governance training; 3) provide monthly meetings in both Ramsey and Cass counties to work on local projects that arose out of our Civic Governance meetings.

Ramsey County self-assessment tools indicated that almost all members saw themselves as active citizens and were willing to expand participation to meet the criteria for Civic Leader as described in the Civic Governance Framework. Completed projects include a New Infestation Response Plan tool that has been used in other areas of the state; research into eDNA technology; creation of the North Oaks Watershed Alliance; organization of another civic governance pilot to fund a regional (three lakes) management plan; and a large public meeting that drew 80 citizens, more than twice as many as have attended previous county meetings. The cross-sector base was expanded to include area businesses (Joe's Sporting Goods and Kowalski's Markets), high school angling team, White Bear Lake Environmental Club, White Bear Lake Girl Scouts.

Cass County self-assessment tools indicate that most participants now meet the criteria for Active Citizen in Civic Governance Framework with a number committed to working to meet criteria for Civic Leader. Completed projects include a pilot to connect high school students (from the tribal high school) to aquatic sciences, revival of the Resort Ambassadors program in Cass County, support for the Pine River Watershed Alliance One Watershed One Plan, a program that will connect lake associations with area farmers who practice the five soil health principles and protect water quality, an educational program on AIS at the Deepwater Portage Environmental Learning Center, and a large public meeting that drew 180 lake residents.

Jeff Forester, executive director of Minnesota Lakes & Rivers Advocates, offered the following observations:

"At the February meeting of the Cass County demonstration, we were set to finish our strategic planning process with an Endpoint Evaluation. One of the disciplines of the Civic Governance model is to conduct a midpoint and endpoint evaluation, which begins by calling the question: “Do we want to continue with this organization, restructure, or sunset?”

"We had a long talk about the projects we were all doing, and the goals for next year, and the purpose for the Civic Governance group. It was a good discussion and I pushed people to really assess our efforts. In the end we came to the conclusion that all of our projects and efforts would continue even if the group did not continue to meet monthly.

"We made the decision to sunset the group but continue to stay in touch and meet as needed. My big learnings were twofold:

  • I learned much from the process and now am far better able to organize a group like this in a way that gets people up and running more quickly.
  • The need or climate is important. In Cass County, John Sumption and Jerry Lerom had keen leadership and organizational skills. They created a highly functional climate for partnerships in Cass County and developed and supported a number of good leaders who have carried on their work since they retired. John Ringle has continued this tradition as well.

"At its core, Civic Governance is a way to develop civic leadership skills, and there was not a pressing need for this in Cass County. In Ramsey County, however, there was a need to raise Civic Leaders to support and advance AIS work.

"The key takeaway is that unless there is an acute need for people to change and organize themselves in a new way, then it is hard to sustain a Civic Organizing Agency.

"Despite the early work of John Sumption and Jerry Lerom, and the ongoing efforts of John Ringle, three new Civic Leaders did emerge in Cass County, and some have identified a need and brought the process into new work beyond AIS efforts.

"Linda Blake became president of the Association of Cass County Lakes (ACCL) and has used Civic Governance training to develop new leaders among the board of that organization. She is working with Minnesota Lakes & Rivers Advocates (MLR) to adapt and simplify the Civic Governance documents and stage them to create a better training tract.

"This spring ACCL will pilot an Up the Creek Meats program to connect farmers who practice the five soil health principles with lake association members to build a market for local and sustainable food sources. This was developed by Pine River Watershed Alliance’s Ron Meyer, a Cass County Civic Governance member, and Jeff Forester. Ron was a self-identified Civic Leader in the Cass County pilot.

"Members of the Sustainable Farming Association have begun meeting one-on-one with Jeff Forester to explore Civic Governance strategies in their work as well. The more that agricultural leaders and lake associations can work together, the better our water will be. Ron and some Crow Wing County lake associations have made progress here. We hope to take their efforts statewide.

"Civic Governance roles are defined as Active Citizen, Civic Leader and Lead Organizer, each representing a higher level of commitment to advancing the model. Linda Blake, an Active Citizen in the Cass Pilot, worked one-on-one with Jeff Forester to explore the role of Civic Leader during the pilot. Since March she has been meeting with other Civic Leaders and Lead Organizers to explore the role of Lead Organizer as defined by the Midwest Active Citizenship Criteria.

"Pine River Watershed Alliance is actively involved in the One Watershed One Plan for Pine River Watershed. That process, with Ron’s leadership, has included some Civic Governance disciplines. Jeff Forester has begun answering calls from other watershed district people who are starting their own One Watershed One Plan planning and want to explore Civic Governance.

"During spring 2020, Julie Westerlund and Jeff Forester hosted a webinar on the One Watershed One Plan process. Jeff highlighted the role of active citizens within this process and the benefits of a Civic Governance framework to build sustainable civic engagement.

"When a group of citizens became concerned that the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) did not have a lake association, and was therefore at higher risk of AIS infestation, they contacted MLR. The high level of local controversy surrounding all things BWCA Wilderness represented a barrier to their efforts. One of the concerned citizens had heard of our Ramsey and Cass County pilots at the Water Connects Us All conference in Cass County. MLR provided an overview of the framework, and the group decided to use this model to organize the many overlapping agencies and groups that work in the BWCAW.

"That work, begun in November 2019, already has resulted in a redeployment of AIS inspectors by local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) staff, exploration by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) of the New Infestation Response Plan (NIRP) developed in the Ramsey County pilot to expedite AIS treatment permitting and response within the BWCA Wilderness. A self-inspection protocol being developed in Ramsey is also being explored in the BWCAW area by the citizens, the Minnesota DNR, USFS and 1854 Treaty Authority.

"The first strategy of the Individual Work Plan (IWP) for Civic Organizing is to create a climate and develop the civic imagination of citizens. The LSOHC grant provided a platform to test this model in AIS work. There is a growing climate for more authentic and transparent partnerships among citizens, local governments and various resource focused agencies with regard to AIS in particular, and water protection efforts in general."

Photo by Caleb Vandenheuvel on Unsplash

Crow Wing County on Behalf of the Mississippi Headwaters Board

Wakeboarder Outreach Campaign

The goals of this project was to educate recreational boaters through a high-energy, action-packed social media campaign targeting the northern region of the state. This campaign is really targeting the non-angling portion of the watercraft owners.

The project documented an apparent decrease in the presence of risk factors entering Mississippi Headwaters Board (MHB) lakes. MHB’s following on Twitter is 6,662 and growing, and it has 31,585 followers on its Minnesota Traditions Facebook page. The regional area supported this project because the quality of the videos and posts, along with the quantity of people reached could not be replicated by local AIS coordinators. MHB’s message reached more than 10.5 million impressions due to organic, targeted and digital posts. The MHB Facebook page now has more members following it than the Brainerd Daily Dispatch Facebook page. It is estimated that the TV campaign reached more than 2 million viewers on Fox Sports North (compared to a total viewing area of around 4.6 million). The program was aired in the cities of Duluth, Fargo/Moorhead/Minot, Sioux Falls, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Rochester from October through December 2015, April through June 2016 and October through December 2016. The total of combined social media, TV, and digital viewers was about 12.5 million.

The surveys show that MHB supported and encouraged behavioral changes to prevent the spread of AIS by identifying what type of behaviors the participants would be willing to do after watching Minnesota Traditions media.

Crow River Organization for Water (CROW) Joint Powers Board

Engaging Generations X, Y & Z to Prevent AIS

Attack Packs are ready-to-use bundles of educational material, including preserved samples of AIS species. Goals: 1) Provide Attack-Pack-based coursework and hands-on training to 1,500 people within two-year grant period; 2) Successfully use evaluation mechanisms for the proposed Attack Pack expansion and young adult-targeted outreach; 3) Drive viewers to CROW social media where they can learn more about AIS prevention and share within their own networks.

Goal 1: AIS Attack Pack distribution was achieved through Soil and Water Conservation Distric (SWCD) Field Days and annual meetings in Wright and McLeod Counties, 4-H events and science camps, pollinator workshops, Blue Bird Days and live music concerts.

  • 2015: 962 students and 150 additional students and adults
  • 2016: 1,050 students and exposure to 40 lake associations
  • 2017: 348 students, 4-H leaders and clubs
  • 2017: 32 4-H students participated in AIS dance game
  • 2018: 915 students and adults
  • Total: 3,497 students/adults reached, and six Attack Packs sold

Goal 2: CROW staff worked with the evaluation consultants at the University of Minnesota to develop and administer a survey of pre- and post- Attack Pack exposure and knowledge. Adult focus groups, students that had participated in programming, teachers from participating high schools and individuals contacted at boat landings and the county fair all provided feedback which supported curricula improvement.

Goal 3: CROW staff developed advertising to promote AIS prevention awareness using existing materials, including those from the DNR. These materials were in rotation at two movie theaters prior to regular shows. This resulted in an estimated 70,000 impressions. This result is somewhat discounted, since not all patrons arrive early, and CROW discontinued this strategy after the first season.

In 2016, CROW created “Wipe Out AIS” toilet paper with local dollars (and not LSOHC funds). Each sheet featured an illustration of a common AIS species. Toilet paper distribution was primarily across the county park systems in three counties. Port-A-Potty company (Mini Biff) partnered with us to help maintain rolls in their units. The customized toilet paper was a big hit. Many businesses and citizens commented it was a unique, attention-grabbing and enjoyable medium. By building efficiency and consistency with artwork produced by All-Over Media, CROW was able to create a cohesive marketing and outreach message in our focus area. The quirky messaging on the toilet paper aimed to reach audience that would stand out and motivate people to reach out through social media. Using social media hashtags #wipeawayinvasives, people were able to directly correspond with CROW staff. Additionally, the Mississippi Headwater's Board shared our post on their Minnesota Traditions page where it became their second most popular post at 2,839 people reached. In 2017 the toilet paper was distributed at the 2017 Governor’s Fishing Opener in Benton County.

As part of this project we modified our marketing and education strategies from primarily movie theaters to more innovative strategies, including customized bait bags for bait shops and signs for gas stations. We were able to build efficiency and consistency by utilizing artwork specifically produced by All-Over Media for McLeod, Meeker and Wright counties. Due to a staff turnover in McLeod County, a decision was made not to use All-Over Media in the county. However, we continued our collaborative marketing strategies by utilizing artwork specifically produced by All-Over Media for Meeker and Wright counties.

CROW Facebook “Likes” Summary (2015-2019): Total 235 Likes

Mississippi Headwaters and its Minnesota Traditions Facebook Page (2016): Second most popular post at 2,839 people reached.

Relationship with DNR in implementing this project.

The CROW project had difficulties at the beginning with getting DNR to sign off on transporting our dead AIS species to produce our acrylic blocks for our Attack Packs. We also had to have waivers in each Attack Pack noting the acrylic blocks were for educational purposes. The blocks are a hardened resin (plastic) material around AIS species, so people could physically lift the species and hold them in their hand to see what they actually looked like and understand the size of each AIS species. Due to policy changes, the permit is no longer needed for any entity and/or individual. After this issue was resolved, our ongoing need to work with DNR was limited.

Photo credit: West Central Tribune

Kandiyohi County

Centralized (Regional) Inspection and Decontamination Station

Goal 1: Fully implement new regional permanent decontamination and inspection station which will increase levels of boater compliance.

Goal 2: Implementation of ease-of-access programs, which provide incentives for boater compliance and ease the inspection process for staff.

Goal 3: Provide targeted education, especially focused on new opportunities, including the decontamination station, ease-of-access programs and the "Aquatic Hunter" app, which will lead to increased boater compliance and potential rapid response opportunities.

What was your actual outcome of Goal 1?

Regional permanent decontamination and inspection station was operational as of May 2016, with a collaborative partnership with lake service provider secured and contract signed. Watercraft decontaminations were available from on-site staff Monday through Saturday and Sunday by appointment. An AIS hotline is set up which listed decontamination sites and forwards callers to the Lake Service Provider for appointments or to the AIS coordinator for further information.

What was your actual outcome of Goal 2?

Ease-of-access receipts were used for part of the season; however, we received notification from the DNR that they were a violation of our delegation agreement and we were required to stop using them.

What was your actual outcome of Goal 3?

Targeted education included speaking engagements at lake associations, AIS hotline cards, decontamination website information, and awareness efforts on social media platforms.

Evaluations were suspended/not collected because the DNR delegation agreement prohibits inspectors from doing any public interaction besides the inspection survey. There was not enough staff and volunteer time to collect all the surveys needed.

This project was suspended within a year of its start due to (county) staff turnover, discouragement over restrictions associated with the delegation agreement, as well as a change in county board commitment to the effort.

Rusty crayfish “boils” at farmers markets in the Boundary Waters area have helped to educate—and feed—the public.

Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District

Reduction of Invasive Rusty Crayfish Project

The project goal was to halt or at least deter the spread of rusty crayfish into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness; 2) Elevate the awareness of lake users to AIS impacts, infestation locations and vectors for transmission; 3) Restore littoral vegetation and consequently improve the fishery.

Goal 1: Through their trapping efforts, they defined a clear delineation of where rusty crayfish are present on the North Kawishiwi River. The number and size of crayfish were tallied throughout the summer seasons. There is no obvious decline in size or numbers of rusty crayfish at the invasive front that can be distinguished from seasonal variation. The location of the infestation has not progressed further into the BWCAW. The South Branch of the Kawishiwi River had a significant decline in the number of rusty crayfish when results from trapping are compared between the years 2014 and 2015. This corresponded to an overall reduction of crayfish in the area, likely due to other natural predators, mainly muskrats.

Goal 2: Outreach efforts by the SWCD and volunteers were successful in reaching a large number of local residents as well as visitors. Appearances at parades, festivals and farmers markets were effective at getting information to a variety of people. While the parades cover the largest spectrum of the population, one-to-one contact at local farmers markets were better at providing AIS information in a focused manner.

Goal 3: The time frame of the project did not allow for extensive monitoring of the fishery, where ecological changes in the population are documented over decades. Given limited baseline data, documenting littoral vegetation increases or shifts was difficult. Anecdotal evidence and property owners continue to note anecdotal support for increased vegetation near their docks and a decline in crayfish numbers in their lakes or bays.

Mechanically pulling starry stonewort from Lake Koronis.

Lake Koronis Association

Starry Stonewort Management Project in Stearns County

Pilot the best-to-date Starry Stonewort management practices in the control of a defined area on Lake Koronis; 2) With a successful pilot demonstration, expand area of Starry Stonewort management to the remainder of Lake Koronis; 3) With pilot success, this management plan becomes recognized and acceptable for broader usage across the state.

How has your goal (as stated in your application) evolved since the project began? Did you achieve the desired results?

In simple terms, the pilot project, using an innovative approach, was set up to manage Starry Stonewort in Lake Koronis. If the pilot demonstrated positive results, the goal was to scale the program to manage larger areas of the lake and determine long-term requirements to keep the protocol in place. The results were to be shared across the state and to national audiences. We have stayed on track for the goal. We have had to adapt our time schedules and move our expenditures to better manage the pilot. The growth of the alga was different each year, which required schedules to change. Managing the project took many more hours than anticipated. The local purchase of the mechanical puller clearly enhanced our abilities and would be advisable for anyone taking on a project of this scope and magnitude. We also had to define what success looked like as a standard measurement. Eradication of the algae was not a possibility nor an expectation. We found that our success could be measured with density and/or bed depth to determine if we had managed the algae to below a nuisance level. We were successful in achieving that goal.

If you or others were to replicate this project, what guidance might you share based on your experience implementing this project? Do you think this project would be worthwhile for others to undertake?

The lake association is embarking on a Watershed Petition under Minnesota Statue 103D. We have submitted a petition to develop a funding mechanism, using local taxes, to continue the project. Guidance for another organization is to develop "great" partnerships with the regulatory agencies, academic organizations, contractors and suppliers of materials. Any lake that is in a similar situation would be wise to follow our experiences and methodology. It is for that reason and our results that we continue to share our findings and informally communicate, advise others that have starry stonewort infestations. You must also be able to have good committee and community support.

Discuss the elements of your project that have not worked as expected or need to be changed. Did you discover any limitations that would make this project infeasible for others? If so, what?

Any management efforts are dependent on ambient conditions, including weather, sunlight, and temperature. What didn't work well was trying to be too precise with our activities. You need to be able to adapt and adjust. Time schedules are important but must have some flexibility. Management of contractors/partners and their timelines must also be considered.

Local contractors and partners were easier to manage. It was those contractors who had other customers and schedules that were difficult. We put out a schedule to apply chemicals that was dictated by slow-growth conditions only to have the weather change, growth changed, and we couldn't adjust the applicators schedule.

Know that reports, data gathering, data analysis for "new" pilots/projects takes time and manpower. Get others involved. Keep them involved. Help others understand the process. Work time on the lake was shorter than we ever anticipated.

The protocol required starry stonewort to be off the bottom of the lake so it could be reached for pulling or treated chemically. Treating bare sediment was not successful to killing starry stonewort. The growth was typically high enough by the end of June and we could work into early October. This gave us a little over three months to do all of the project work permitted in that year. Unique processes were part of the protocol.

The protocol required a unique process for application, chilled algaecides, applied on the bottom with weighted hoses. We would recommend the applicator uses a variable speed pump linked with GPS unit and depth to adjust application rate based on boat speed and water column depth. Must have an adaptable process using mechanical pulling coupled with chemical treatment. This allowed us to better deal with thicker mats of the algae, and those who were opposed to chemicals in the area of their property. Chemical application could be just as effective but not necessarily with thick mats. Mechanical pulling gave instant relief. We were lucky that we did not have many limits other than time commitments, which included reports and tracking activities. We gathered a tremendous amount of data to demonstrate activities and results. Verification of results was a key part of the pilot. We had a supportive customer base. We had the funding needed for the pilot, so we did not need to hold off from expanding the pilot. This may not always be the case for another organization, so although it worked for us it needs great consideration for others.

Discuss the limiting factors in assessing the viability of this strategy. Money? Manpower? Time? Other?

The key limiting factor is having someone local with the background needed to manage the project. If you have to hire a management professional, that will take additional funding. As stated, working with local partners or contractors has advantages. If you are their sole customer, it is highly advantageous. Establishing strong relationships is paramount to accomplishing quality work. The Lake Koronis project had strong local and state support. Others with starry stonewort will need to evaluate the size of the infestation along with their limiting factors to determine the length of the project and funding needs. Reporting takes time and should be considered in the management of the project. Reporting may be required from several partners or customers.

Goal 1: Although chemicals have been demonstrated in the lab to be effective in killing the starry stonewart bulbils (a regrowth mechanism of the alga), the bulbils remain viable if they are covered by sediment and can't be reached by the chemicals. For that reason, we adapted out treatment plans to continue hitting new and fresh growth.

In the second year of the program (2017), starry stonewort was successfully extracted mechanically and manually from approximately 3.5 acres. Those areas were then chemically treated two times. Another adjacent 3.4-acre area was only chemically treated (2 times) as comparison to provide a more thorough way to evaluate the success or failure of the management plan. Seining net was installed and used in the lake surrounding the work area. Observational evidence showed that it worked well to contain small pieces/fragments of starry stonewort.

Field observations of new growth in 2016 treated areas suggested that it was necessary to adapt the protocol and retreat while starry stonewort was at a low level. We found that two mid-summer treatments supported management control. However, re-treatment early in the season exhibits reduced effectiveness, so timing around emergence is critical.

Goal 2: In 2018 the project permit was expanded to 241 acres (slightly more than 15 percent of the littoral area). We had learned that monitoring the starry stonewort growth was a key factor for determining how and when the steps to the protocol would proceed. Our documentation is a way to have the protocol for management being widely adopted.

About 400 tons of of Starry Stonewort were mechanically or chemically treated, removed and disposed of as organic fertilizer in 2018. Seining was not part of the process. Adaptive management practices were used to eliminate the need for divers and the nets and to reduce the number of chemical treatments to two. We did use people in the water with rakes to remove vegetation under docks and lifts. Data indicate that the chemicals used, tradename Cutrine Plus, were successful in the management of starry stonewort with little demonstrated impact on native plants. Native plants were impacted; however, it is believed to be from the impact of the aggressiveness of the starry stonewort. Recognizing that the mechanical puller was not as effective in the deeper water allowed it to work longer and cover more ground in the shallow area.

Goal 3: Areas chosen for the pilot in 2019 met the criteria needed to obtain a permit from the Minnesota DNR. We treated—either mechanically, chemically, or both—an area of about 125.5 acres. Using multi-year DNR data along with our own data, areas around the lake were prioritized for treatment and 11 new areas were added.

Discuss your relationship with the DNR in implementing this project.

We have had a good partnership with the Minnesota DNR. We communicate often and keep them informed of our activities. Jointly we have performed lake evaluations. They have assisted when asked. They have adjusted permit requirements when we mutually agree that it was needed. Local data has been readily shared both directions. We had all of our activities permitted by the DNR as required by law. They are copied on all of our year-end reports and, because we needed to establish a lake vegetation management plan to get a variance for our activities, have been required to complete paperwork with results in their format. We have set the stage for a good long-term relationship.

What did your overall evaluation of the project reveal?

The metric used for the evaluation of success, as discussed earlier, needs to fit the goals. Sometimes the standards developed in the past don't fit all situations. This refers to the % Frequency of occurrence metric that DNR typically uses in lake management. In our case it was not realistic. With eradication not being possible and management in an area not eradicating, the % frequency of occurrence metric was a "presence" or "absence" metric that wasn't sensitive enough to demonstrate nuisance management. Once we established the metric, we found that we were successfully managing starry stonewort in those areas treated. Overall we demonstrated through scientific data that the protocol has merit to be considered a valuable management tool for large infestations.

Results continue to be shared with others around the state through news articles, speeches and radio interviews. The treatment protocol was been shared at the 2017 AIS Summit, and with several other counties, COLA's and lake associations that are concerned about starry stonewort infestation. Preliminary results were also presented at the National Aquatic Plant Management Society meeting in Buffalo, New York, in July 2017.

With the confirmed expansion of starry stonewort to 12 lakes in Minnesota, we receive requests for guidance to assist other lake stakeholders in their actions.

This project has been discussed across the eastern United States where starry stonewort has been found to be an invasive and used as an example in the western states as an example of what has had to be accomplished to manage the problem. This project is under the scrutiny of the Minnesota DNR, University of Minnesota and Clemson University. The pilot has piqued the interest of Clemson University to have a Ph.D. candidate use Koronis in his thesis. Presentations of the data and results from Koronis have been shared at aquatic plant management society meetings on the East coast and in Wisconsin. Information of the project has been on the radio in Wilmar and St. Cloud and Minnesota Public Radio. The results will have the potential of influencing other starry stonewort projects across the nation. Koronis Lake Association is encouraged by the preliminary positive results. Our results from the 2019 project yield a level of sustainability in those areas that are routinely maintained. Pilot areas started in 2016 are relatively clear of any Starry Stonewort mass.

Eric Hansen, owner of Pehrson Lodge Resort on Lake Vermilion, goes over AIS inspection steps with Tyler Keihm, a member of the resort's dock staff.

Cass and Itasca Counties and Lake Vermilion Area

Multi-Region Resort Ambassador Program

This project works with private sector partners—resorts, lodges, campgrounds and marina owners—to participate in early AIS detection efforts. A gap exists in AIS detection at private-sector marinas and other boat launching areas. Through training, compensation and participant recognition, it's anticipated that the resort ambassador program will create wider regional networks. The project also will reward private-access inspections, encourage early detection and enhance stewardship—all with the goal of long-term sustainability for Minnesota's tourism and angling industries.

The program aims to:

  • Develop, expand and recognize boat inspection and early detection efforts.
  • Provide the tools and build the skills for increased stewardship of our lakes and rivers.
  • Develop the leadership and support network to sustain activities beyond this project.

Prevention Strategies

How have your goals (as stated in your application) evolved since the project began? Did you achieve the desired results?

Itasca: We began with a focus on resorts, lodges, campgrounds and marinas (collectively called “resorts” for convenience), asking them to add tablet-driven inspections for AIS of all arriving guests with watercraft as part of their everyday procedures. There was almost universal rejection of this idea when approached in this manner. We found many resorts had already been performing basic inspections when guests arrived with watercraft. The added formality of using a tablet was seen as adding too much time and difficulty to the guest welcome and inspection process. For Itasca, Goal 1 evolved into a primary focus on awareness of the threat, education on identifying AIS, raising resort guest awareness of AIS both prior to arrival and while at the resort, educating lakeshore owners about AIS and how to build positive relationships with the resort owners, and the support for inspections of any type.

The second goal evolved from a focus on resort owners to a lake-wide focus, educating all lakeshore residents and encouraging interaction between the resorts and the lakeshore owners. This helped in several ways to increase stewardship. In general, there was a lack of trust and confidence between shoreland owners and resort owners, each with negative opinions of the other. There was also a strong resort owner bias towards what was perceived as government overreach. We shifted our focus to include all lakeshore owners, treating them as one group and encouraging efforts to get to know one another. There was a measure of success in bringing the two groups together and increasing the trust through a focus on being neighbors with the same goal of stopping the spread of AIS on “their” lake. Knowledge of AIS, how to identify it, where to look for it and what to do if it were found increased. Goal 2 is a process that will take time. We feel successful in our efforts here and look forward to the continuation of this process

If the third goal evolved, it was only slightly. See “Goals and Outcomes” below for details.

Cass: The goal of the program for Cass County was to get resorts working on AIS prevention. Contact was made with all resorts and information was given to them to hand out to guests. Surveys were completed and a list of potential resorts was developed. The inspection program has evolved and made progress in two directions: 1) Five resorts are working on inspections on turn-over days, utilizing their employees and “AIS detectors” and 2) The county has both the inspections and AIS Detector Program set up and plans to continue these into the future.

Vermilion: All three goals remained generally unchanged. See “Goals and Outcomes” below for details on results achieved.

If you or others were to replicate this project, what guidance might you share based on your experience implementing this project? Do you think this project would be worthwhile for others to undertake?

Itasca: The focus on building positive relationships between the resort owners, lakeshore property owners and with state and county AIS programs is a worthwhile undertaking. Every resort is unique, and there is no one correct way to approach each resort and even each lake association. Be sure that neighbors who approach resort owners are educated on AIS. Treat resort owners as neighbors and ask what you can do for them rather than “stop doing this” or “start doing that.” Relationship-building is crucial.

Cass: Cass County would recommend working with resort personnel and AIS detectors to do inspections. Time is something that resorts do not have. The training is too long for them to sit down and watch but if you meet with them, they seem to be more receptive. Walking them through the inspections process also allows you to show them how little time it can take to do an inspection.

Organizing members of the resort community takes more time than anticipated.

Vermilion: Each resort, campground and marina is unique, and there is no one best method for reaching them. Start first with businesses where a relationship already exists. Then move to others. Offer them something; never lead by asking for something.

Not only is every resort different, every county or lake is different. Vermilion had a huge advantage based on an existing 60-year-old Lake Vermilion Resort Association of about 30+ members and a single lake on which their business livelihood was based. There was already a basis for working together. An AIS infestation was a shared and common enemy.

Be sure to have adequate staffing that is well trained in both AIS matters and how to work with business owners. Consider using volunteers who are experienced “outside salespersons” or “account executives” in a prior life. Expect an extended timeline. Our lake businesses have even less time available for discussions and employee training than anticipated.

Discuss the elements of your project that have not worked as expected or need to be changed. Did you discover any limitations that would make this project infeasible for others? If so, what?

This program is being simultaneously pursued by three different regions at different stages of development. Progress and issues were continually evaluated. Many initial ideas did not work as well in the field as hoped. We followed the process: All three regions shared what they were seeing, discussed alternatives and moved on to better ideas. By moving quickly, we were able to test many concepts during the grant period. Agility and sharing were keys to our success.

Itasca: Be sure volunteers working with resorts have the interpersonal skills to build the necessary relationship.

Cass: One major limitation was the resort owner time. I recommend meeting with them and showing them how little time is required to do the inspection and hand out information.

Vermilion: Small, family-run resorts are barely handling the workload on a “changeover Saturday” and are in no position to inspect guest boats—even though they’d like to. Seeking a way to overcome this hurdle is essential.

Discuss the limiting factors in assessing the viability of this strategy. Money? Manpower? Time? Other?

Manpower and time. Each resort encountered limitations. A hands-on meeting seems to be the best way to get the information out there.

Goals and Outcomes

Goal 1: Develop, expand and recognize boat inspection and early detection efforts. What was your actual overall outcome of Goal 1 for the entire project?

Itasca: As discussed, the tablet-driven inspections of guest watercraft were not well received. Goal 1 evolved into a primary focus on awareness of the threat, education on identifying AIS, raising guest awareness of AIS prior to arrival and while at the resort, educating lakeshore owners about AIS and how to build positive relationships with the resort owners, and the support for inspections of any type. Outcomes of these efforts include:

  • Resort hot-water decontamination stations: Itasca has one resort using a hot water decontamination unit that was given to them by their lake association. Sixty percent of the cost of the unit came from the lake association; the other 40% came from the Itasca AIS matching grant program (CAP). As hoped, other lake associations are taking note.
  • Regional hot-water decontamination stations: Regional decontamination stations are being developed in Itasca county, each being led by an area lake association with assistance from the Itasca AIS program. The Deer Lake self-serve AIS wash station came online in July 2019. The Marcel area (Turtle Lake) station is in the planning stages for next year. Land and a building have been acquired in downtown Marcel – an outstanding multi lake location – and there appears to be adequate funding lined up. Pokegama Lake Association has contacted the Itasca AIS program for assistance in building one or two self-serve stations around Pokegama. The Sand Lake association is working with Itasca AIS to bring a self-serve station to downtown Deer River. This location is at a major crossroads for the three major fishing areas in Itasca County. Initial meetings with a convenience store owner in Deer River were positive.
  • AIS Detectors & DNR Certified Volunteer Inspectors: Itasca county now has 37 AIS detectors trained and certified by the University of Minnesota. These detectors are offering their assistance to neighboring resorts. A DNR-certified “Volunteer AIS Watercraft Inspector” program was started and saw 20 people earn certification.
  • Five-Star Certifications: When this project started in 2018, we attempted to roll out a Five-Star Resort program. This failed as a result of resort owners feeling that they were being told what to do, how to do it, and that it would cost them money to comply. But we learned that in Itasca County about half of all lake service providers are also resort owners or marine dealers. We saw this as an opportunity to re-introduce a new Five-Star Program to resort owners that were also DNR-registered lake service providers. New offerings included the Itasca AIS program actively encouraging lakeshore owners to use only DNR-certified lake service providers. With that success under our belt, and with several resort owners onboard with the program, we are now sending out notifications to all Itasca area resorts inviting them to a countywide AIS summit. The summit, with the help of current Five-Star Resort owners, will reintroduce the Five-Star program and how it can help them.

Cass: Twelve resorts had been selected to participate in the Cass County Resort Ambassador Program. Implementation was time-consuming and involved working individually with each resort. We were able to involve five of these resorts in the inspection program. Levy Bergstrom, Cass County AIS lake technician, met with four of the five resorts and provided a toolkit (buckets with AIS information and resources) as well as an android device to document the surveys.

Vermilion: Twelve resorts on Lake Vermilion have agreed to conduct private-access inspections and have personnel trained. A few, for various reasons, had no inspections recorded in the private survey. Others conducted inspections without recording the data on a tablet. Overall, those resorts doing inspections are achieving about 80% average coverage. Others will, we hope, begin an inspection program in 2020. Over 2000 inspections were logged in 2019.

  • Fishing Tournaments Launching from Resorts: About 6-10 fishing tournaments launch from Vermilion resorts annually. Tournament participants are viewed as elevated risk boats, given their tendency to fish tournaments on consecutive weeks. Lake association volunteers worked with tournament directors and resort/marina owners to achieve greater than 75% pre-fishing inspection rates in 2019. We hope to raise that bar in 2020.
  • AIS Detectors Support Lake Vermilion: Four AIS detectors support Vermilion, including Vermilion’s resorts and business community. An email and phone “hot line” was established to speed response time. The hot line has received no contacts during 2019 … a good thing. AIS detectors will assist resort owners as early detection sentries in 2020.

Goal 2: Provide the tools and build the skills for increased stewardship of our lakes and rivers. What was your actual overall outcome of Goal 2 for the entire project?

Itasca: Stewardship and communication. Itasca County AIS personnel perform AIS surveys and share results with resort owners. This is an effective way to educate and build relationships. A new four-page guide is now available online at the Itasca AIS website. These guides are designed to go into the three-ringed binders that most resorts have in their guest rooms. Each resort visited is also given an AIS information sign to hang in their fish cleaning houses. As discussed, self-serve AIS wash stations are being built for use by resort guests. A generic AIS letter has been provided for all resorts to modify and send to guests prior to their arrival.

We shifted our focus to include the resort owners and all lakeshore owners, treating them as one group and encouraging efforts to get to know one another. There was a measure of success in bringing the two groups together and diminishing biases through a focus on being neighbors with the shared goal of stopping the spread of AIS. The knowledge of AIS, how to identify it, where to look for it and what to do if it were found increased. Goal 2 is an ongoing process that will take time.

Cass: Resorts are at different stages in the use of pre-travel AIS communication. All have been provided with ID reference material both for front desk and cabins, signs, posters and AIS brochures. On-site youth education programs, on-site adult education programs are currently being planned (fishing guide, K-9 dog inspection, etc.).

Cass County has a complete list of all resorts and owners. In the future, Itasca County and Vermillion area could be added. Itasca County and Vermillion area have nice Facebook pages and posts. A Resort Ambassador Facebook page exists. Future plans might include an AIS detector to integrate our pages and post updates. Cass County is working on utilizing the AIS detector program to help resorts and boater interaction, too.

Vermilion: Three volunteer resort ambassadors serve as account executives at Vermilion’s 30-plus resorts. These ambassadors are responsible for building and maintaining a close relationship with each business owner and arranging for all training, tools and support needed. Frequency of in-person visits adjusted to match resort needs. When an owner asks for something, the answer is “yes” – after which the ambassadors figure out how to do it. Custom signage, standard banners, coaching, literature, pre-travel info for mailings.

Goal 3: Develop the leadership and support network to sustain activities beyond this project. What was your actual overall outcome of Goal 3 for the entire project?

While Goal 3 is stated separately, we have found sustainability is a natural outcome of the work on Goals 1 and 2. The relationships built among business owners, lake associations or coalitions, soil and water conservation districts surrounding AIS will persist.

Itasca: Where no support networks existed at the start of this grant, networks now exist. Lake associations that were successful in building good relationships as neighbors to the resorts on their lake are now mentoring other lake associations on how to achieve similar results. All resorts now know that there is a county program to help them understand and fight the spread of AIS. We held AIS summits in 2018, 2019 and had one planned for 2020 prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each summit has been almost entirely funded by lake associations and county 501(c)3 organizations that focus on water issues.

Cass: Cass County will still work toward building a network in the bait shops and marine dealers. Four marine dealers are participating in decontaminations and are helping promote AIS awareness. Future discussions might include how the resort project can be incorporated into a larger network like Minnesota Lakes and Rivers or a sub-committee of the Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations.

Vermilion: The Resort Ambassador concept mentioned for Goal 2 directly applies to this goal. In addition, Lake Vermilion is fortunate to have had a key networking channel in place for many years. All area lodging facilities—resorts, campgrounds, marinas, hotels—are members of the 60-year-old Lake Vermilion Resort Association. This group will be the nucleus of our long-term stewardship, communications and recognition efforts.

Discuss the overall impact this project had on your AIS of concern. Did you make a difference? Did your local community support the project?

All regions: It is clear from analysis of last-lake and out-of-state boater data collected as a part of this project that boats arriving at resorts are generally higher risk than those arriving at public accesses. At Vermilion, for example, based on the Traffic Analysis Project, resort boats were judged over twice as likely to be an AIS threat to Vermilion. Expanding our circle of AIS partners to include lake businesses, lake service providers and resorts can have an impact.

Itasca: Since this project started there has been only one new infestation found on any Itasca waterbody that was not downstream of an already infested lake. The overall level of AIS awareness in Itasca County has greatly increased, thus helping to stop its spread. Not all local communities actively supported the project, but several did. Where support in the form of manpower was not available there was often monetary and communications support provided.

Cass: The project helped make resort owners aware of the impacts of AIS and allowed lake associations to get involved. Resorts are much more willing to work with us after the program was initiated.

Vermilion: Nearly the entire resort community supports the AIS work at Vermilion. A few resorts are not yet active, but these generally involve resorts with manpower limitations. We will work toward solutions.

Discuss your relationship with the DNR in implementing this project.

The DNR public inspection survey was the basis for the private resort inspection survey. We appreciate the DNR’s assistance to create this private survey, keeping all data fields compatible with the public survey, making comparative traffic and risk analysis easier.

We also appreciate the DNR’s assistance with resort signage and with help creating our online resort inspector training process.

What did your overall evaluation of the project reveal?

Progress and issues were continually evaluated as the project progressed. As discussed throughout this report, many initial ideas did not work as well in the field as hoped. We followed the process: All three regions shared what they were seeing, discussed alternatives, and moved on to better ideas. By moving quickly, we were able to test many concepts during the grant period. Agility and sharing were keys to our success. The end-of-project evaluation provided no surprises not previously identified.

Voyageurs National Park wildlife biologist Steve Windels visits a post-treatment site where invasive cattails were removed and native grasses and wild rice were re-introduced.

Voyageur’s National Park/National Park Service

Restoration of Wetlands Impaired by Invasive Cattails

Goals of this project were to evaluate the effectiveness of techniques for the removal and control of non-native cattails without the use of herbicides in areas with regulated water levels to restore native wetlands; evaluate the effectiveness of techniques for reestablishing a diverse community of native wetland vegetation after removal of cattail; and evaluate the effectiveness of muskrats as natural biocontrol of cattail and their ability to maintain wetland diversity and prevent invasion of non-native cattail.

Goal 1: From 2016-2018, we were able to successfully treat 17.3 acres of invaded wetlands. We implemented six different treatments methods: an underwater cut, a surface cut, a winter scrape, back piling of masticated material on live (invasive) cattail, tilling and flattening, and total removal with heavy machinery. We found that underwater cuts of rooted cattail, complete removal with heavy machinery, and back piling masticated material on live cattail had the highest efficacy. As expected, total removal exhibited the best results with no cattail re-emerging after initial treatment.

Winter removal of the standing cattail vegetation at the ice level and surface cutting of standing cattail during the spring/summer was less successful. Unfortunately, we had a narrow window to get this work done as the period where little snow remained in the wetland, but enough ice persisted to support the machines was limited. Snow impeded a clean cut at the ice level limiting the effectiveness of this technique. Additionally, water levels remained lower than normal later in the spring, permitting cattail growth to outpace water level rise and allowing it to survive. Better conditions and timing may increase the efficacy of these techniques in future years. Although we did not witness our desired results with winter scrape and surface cutting, we did witness an increase in wetland plant compositional diversity across all composition categories. We believe this was a result of removing the down-and-dead layer of cattail material that stifles native vegetation growth. These methods may not be as effective at killing cattail but may be successful in stimulating native vegetation growth in wetland areas where the more effective treatments methods are either impractical or cannot be implemented.

Goal 2: It was expected that the natural (native) seedbank present under the cattails would germinate and result in natural regeneration of vegetation with little to no additional effort. We did witness native vegetation regeneration in some of the project areas despite not being reseeded. This is suggestive of a sufficient natural seed bank existing under and within the wetlands. This is encouraging as it may reduce the cost per acre of future restoration.

In 2018, we supplemented natural regeneration by seeding most of the treatment area with native plant seed mixes. We stratified seeding type based on the treatment area’s characteristics and what wetland plants would naturally occur (e.g., wild rice). Of the 18.7 acres seeded, 4.5 acres were seeded with a Lakeshore Mix, 6.7 acres with wild rice, 3.0 acres with soft stem bulrush in 2017 and 2018. We re-seeded 4.5 acres with wild rice in 2019. Establishment of plants from seed was mixed. We witnessed excellent regeneration of sedges, rushes and grasses where masticated mat material was back piled on shore, on dead floating mats that resurfaced after treatment, and in areas where cattail was tilled and flattened. In areas that were seeded with wild rice and bulrush, we did not witness any dramatic increases in establishment of these desired species.

We believe there are two possible explanations:

  • The conditions of the seeded areas were not conducive to seed propagation and establishment.
  • There is a lag effect in the establishment of these seeded areas, and the new seeds that were spread went dormant until the appropriate conditions are present.

As previously mentioned, large amounts of flocculent material were present in the treated area. It is possible that this loose material in the water column shaded the seed enough to prohibit seed germination. It may take more time for the material to settle to the bottom and provide the needed sunlight conditions for germination. In addition, for wild rice specifically, it is recommended that it be reseeded multiple years in a row for successful reestablishment. We will continue to monitor these areas for the next few years to evaluate reseeding success.

Goal 3: We have successfully completed aerial surveys prior to translocations in 2016 and after initial translocations in 2018. Pooled between years, we counted a total of 14 muskrat huts (2016 = 4, 2018 = 10), eight of which were in control wetlands and six were found in treatment wetlands (Fig. 10). We did not witness an increase in hut numbers in wetlands that received translocated muskrats as we predicted. Aerial hut surveys may not be the most appropriate method for assessing muskrat population dynamics in Voyageurs National Park for two primary reasons. First, muskrats frequently use beaver lodges instead of constructing their own traditional huts out of emergent vegetation. Current research in Voyageurs documented many of our translocated muskrats with radio transmitters using beaver lodges in 2018 and 2019. Other research using remote cameras suggests 30-40% of all beaver lodges are being used by muskrats during the summer. Thus, aerial surveys that only look for traditional muskrat huts as signs of a muskrat colony would underestimate muskrat populations. Second, muskrat huts are challenging to see because of their relatively small size and coloration. Optimal survey conditions in northern Minnesota occur during early winter after ice has formed but before significant snowfall. Such conditions did not exist in 2016 and 2018 when we had aircraft available, and thus our counts from those years are also likely an underestimate. We have captured a total of 224 muskrats (adults =113, kits = 111) in 2018-2019. We translocated all adult muskrats to 5 treatment wetlands on Rainy Lake. Using funds from another fund source (specifically Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund), we surgically implanted VHF transmitters in a total of 75 adult muskrats (2018 = 23, 2019 = 52) so we could monitor survival and movements of translocated muskrats. Results are pending.

Discuss the overall impact this project had on your AIS of concern. Did you make a difference? Did your local community support the project?

In 2017, a large floating section of cattail mat, approximately 6 acres in size, broke away from the west side of Irwin Bay on Lake Kabetogama. The mat floated free for about 1 month, gradually moving east towards the end of the lake. After being pushed by multiple boats a number of times, it finally came to rest in Rudder Bay where National Park Service personnel trapped it there using a sediment barrier. The mat stayed in Rudder Bay over the winter of 2017-2018 and in the summer of 2018 a contracting company was able to successfully treat the mat and pile the remains along the shoreline to naturally decompose.

The area where the mat originated, from Irwin Bay, left a large open water patch in the wetland complex. The following year, the natural seed bank of wild rice and bulrush recolonized the open area. Cattail mats like these are serious navigation hazards and can cause extensive damage to shoreline infrastructure. They also exclude native vegetation that would have otherwise occupied these invaded areas. This example reinforces the need to treat wetlands with floating mats and restore them to their natural state. This will reduce the direct negative effects of the mats themselves as well as increase the amount of native fish and wildlife habitat available.

Relationship with DNR in implementing this project.

Interactions with Minnesota DNR on this project were great. All DNR staff were helpful, supportive and excited to see what was being done and how it turned out. Many DNR staff offered to help in any way they could. Numerous DNR staff want to visit treatment sites and share their thoughts and experiences; many did!

Regulatory wise, the DNR was quick to turn around and approve necessary permits without issue. They were also quick to extend/reissue them. The major challenges we encountered were meshing our administrative and budgeting systems. Difficulties were not unexpected as the Department of Interior and the State of Minnesota have differing budget cycles, accounting systems, layers of requirements, etc. Many lessons were learned as to how to best mitigate these issues and are confident that we can make the merging of our processes more seamless in the future. Overall, it was a positive experience working with the Minnesota DNR and they look forward to a continued partnership on the wetland restoration project as well as future partnerships on other projects.

CD3 Systems provide the tools needed to empower day-boaters to clean, drain, and dry their watercraft and trailer.

Wildlife Forever and CD3, LLC

Preventing the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species

This project involved the development of innovative tools, techniques, methods; 2) Field testing or verification of innovative tools, techniques, methods; 3) Outreach, education, technical assistance.

Goal 1: This was achieved through the development of the CD3 Cleaning Station. Despite this goal being completed, activities under this phase are on-going. Significant stakeholder reviews have been a critical component to project success. We continue to meet with project partners to review lessons learned and listen to feedback regarding observational station use.

Goal 2: During field testing, public interaction with CD3 stations was reported very positively with minimal abuse and tool breakage. Throughout 2018, maintenance and operational costs were extremely low due to efficient design and placement of stations. On average, costs remained at around $50 per month which includes electrical, sanitary pump-out and incidental maintenance. In 2018 there have been a total of 24,487 tool uses. Here's a breakdown of tool use for each of the 5 locations: Bryant Lake Regional Park (14,254), Lake Minnetonka North Arm (4,853), Lake Minnetonka Spring Park (11,403), Lake Riley (14,002) and Pike Lake (4,114).

Goal 3: We evolved this goal of the project away from integrating the CD2 App (a mobile phone application which could share AIS prevention messages) with the CD3 Cleaning Stations to a more user friendly and cost-effective Wi-Fi educational platform. Expensive maintenance fees associated with the CD2 App led us to switch gears.

In 2018, the Wi-Fi educational platform was designed and installed in each of the pilot stations. A Wi-Fi communication platform serves as a much more suitable platform for localized mobile device outreach and education. Wi-Fi systems allow any device user (i-phone or android) to connect to static platform (website landing page) where digital content is viewable. This technology consists of a small device, powered either by solar or standard plugin, emits a radial frequency that once connected to mobile device, can display customizable digital content. An example of a similar communication platform is the landing page you see when connecting to a Hotel’s Wi-Fi, however the CD2 Wi-Fi system would not be open for internet use as the digital content would be preloaded to a static educational platform.

Within the CD2 Wi-Fi system, much of our CD2 mobile app content will be leveraged for AIS prevention messaging. Outreach tools within the platform will include Waterside ABCs (Access Based Conservation) messages of Clean Drain Dry, Trash Unused Bait, proper disposal of fishing line and soft plastics as well as locations for decontamination stations. Additional information and mapping technology could also be including listing local amenities such as gas stations, bait shops, restaurants and more. This technology will utilize a cellular gateway to push information and updated content and does not allow for full internet connectivity beyond what is presented in the digital platform.

Wildlife Forever

Multi-media Access and Signage Project

This project involved the distribution of augmented reality-enhanced access signage throughout St. Louis County through partner networks that complement current outreach message and marketing efforts; the achievement of 1.5 million impressions in Duluth, Virginia and Ely markets to promote download of the free app and Invaders of the Great Lake book incentive; and the capture of contact information from Clean Drain Dry app downloads and used on newly created sign to determine user demographics and experience using video-enhanced access sign.

Goal 1: Fundamental elements of our initial project relied on public interaction with the new augmented-reality access signs via the Clean Drain Dry mobile application. While the app remains free, promotion of its use, function and project incentive for use, was primarily driven by a broad geo-fencing mobile device promotion. After successful implementation of the promotional campaign, we delivered more than 1.8 million impressions or ads promoting app download and the incentive to mobile device users. Despite the large number of people reached, one initial barrier to the promotion was a lack of capacity for instant use of the CD2 app, AIS video and integrated incentive offers. Initial engagement with the mobile ad resulted in 3,782 clicks to a landing page for more content and the product offer with app use. These engagements were within expected ranges; however, this did not translate to app downloads and use of the augmented-reality technology and integrated AIS prevention survey encapsulated into the Access Sign. The app also proved to be expensive to upgrade and maintain as technology and mobile device upgrades require apps to be refreshed and debugged periodically. While mobile applications are popular and a valuable resource in certain applications, we determined there to be too many barriers for widespread use with AIS prevention and outreach messaging. Revised Goal 1 of the project was accomplished. The design and framework of the lake WiFi educational kiosk have been completed and we designed the WiFid hardware to be able to connect to a multitude of different smart phones.

Goal 2: We revised and completed Goal 2 as follows: beta test the educational platform, promote and install the WiFi device in three CD3 cleaning stations and integrate the current mobile app survey questions and digital assets for evaluation of effectiveness. Since the start of boating season in May 2019, we had 33 users connect to the new Lake WiFi platform to learn more about prevention, 12 of whom filled out the survey to completion and received the free incentive. Since the project's inception to date, 88 "boater kits" have been produced and distributed.

Goal 3: We revised and completed Goal 3 as follows: Evaluate survey data to determine platform use and trends. Use survey analysis to modify platform and provide high value digital assets and resources for enhanced AIS prevention, awareness and understanding of best practices. The Lake WiFi systems are up and running on all pilot CD3 stations. The 2019 revised project yielded 31 connections to the WiFi system while cleaning their boat to learn more about the Clean Drain Dry steps and take our survey. For the entire project, we received 294 survey responses and gleaned valuable information on the public's knowledge of AIS, willingness to act and preferred method of education and outreach.

A Wright County inspector feels for "veligers," the final larval stage of many invasive species.

Wright County Regional Inspection Coalition

AIS Prevention Strategies

Given the rapid spread of invasive species in Annandale area lakes and the dependence of the city of Annandale on a vital, recreational lake economy and tax base, the initiative sought to replace the state’s conventional lake-access-only inspection model with a centralized, mandatory regional entrance inspection and decontamination strategy. The Wright Regional Inspection Program (WRIP) was based in part on a 2012 DNR-funded study that concluded that regional inspections were 10 times more cost-effective than at-the-ramp inspections. In the years between 2011 and today, the DNR, however, did not sponsor or endorse any such pilot to test that assertion.

In the first year of operation the focus was on three of the county’s waterbodies in East and West Lake Sylvia, Lake John and Pleasant Lake. Note: Both Lake Sylvia and Pleasant have infestations of starry stonewort but were otherwise believed to be free of other invasive species. In a scheduled second year in 2019, six more lakes would be added to the pilot, including Cedar, Granite, Maple, Bass, Sugar and Moose Lakes.

Goal 1: Demonstrate that regional inspection sites could deliver expanded coverage and greater cost efficiency—consistent with the DNR-sponsored study indicating regional inspection was 10 times more cost effective than current efforts used statewide.

Goal 2: Generate data which will be valuable to understand if (and which parts of) this model is leverageable for other counties.

Goal 3: Expand activities to broaden community representation and understanding of the program. This eventually led to an AIS advisory group that was formed in 2018 and included the soil and water conservation district, County Commissioners, DNR, lake associations, a recreational fisherman and law enforcement.

With its pilot program in place, the proposition—Ordinance Amendment 1701—moved to the Wright Country Board on June 27, 2017, where public discussion was predictably mixed, pro and con, as it had been at previous public meetings in the county. Nonetheless, The Wright County Board unanimously approved what could have been a precedent-setting pilot program in Minnesota's fight against AIS, calling for a mandatory, centralized inspection requirement prior to launch at three lakes in Wright County: Lake Sylvia, Lake John and Pleasant Lake, with an on-site decontamination station at the centralized inspection location to help prevent and protect against the spread of the dreaded invaders, including zebra mussels, starry stonewort and others.

The ordinance was based on Minnesota Statute 84D, which was amended in 2012 to allow for a mandatory, regional inspection/decontamination program and created funding for county-based AIS prevention aid. Notably, over six years no county or state agency had pursued such an objective prior to the Wright County pilot. Once passed, the plan went to the Minnesota DNR for final approval of the signage, tagging and other details that made up the pilot.

Unfortunately, the WRIP in 2017 was ineffective because it started too late in the boating and fishing season when many people began removing boats and docks with the approach of cold weather. The delay cost the program Initiative Foundation funding because that source of money was set to expire. Thus, year one of the WRIP was already at a distinct disadvantage with the late start.

The WRIP was passed in 2017 and was partially implemented that fall with set-up costs of $61,238.99 (according to the WRIP 2018 final year-end report). Its first full year of operations—costing $242,285.66 (based on the same report)—did not occur until the open water season in 2018, roughly May through October of that year.

Funding for 2018 WRIP came from three primary sources: Lake association contributions; state AIS prevention funds administered by Wright Soil and Water Conservation District (WSWCD); and a grant from the LSOHC (as administered by the Initiative Foundation). Outcomes associated with the 2018 season included:

  1. Inspections for the lakes in the program increased 51% compared to 2017.
  2. Wait times to begin inspections were low—average was 30 seconds.
  3. Average Inspection time was 2.7 minutes.
  4. Sixty-eight inspections failed with 16 zebra mussel violations (all of which were corrected prior to issuing a tag).
  5. All violations were identified and corrected before accessing the lake.
  6. Average decontamination time was 15.8 minutes.
  7. Staffing with 2 inspectors saved time and contributed to the low wait times experienced, creating excellent traffic flow.

Other noteworthy accomplishments included:

  1. More inspections: 1,780 additional entering inspections compared to previous year.
  2. High compliance rates: 92.4% of inspections complied with the ordinance.
  3. Safety improvements: Two-person teams increased the safety of decontamination services—unlike prior county inspection and decontamination services, which were performed by only one paid county employee.
  4. On-site facility improvements included:
  • A heated and air-conditioned office was installed which provided a safer and more comfortable working environment for inspectors, complete with city-operated severe weather warning sirens, a telephone, security cameras, lights, the ability to eliminate inspectors at remote, unsecured locations, a portable toilet and a location just minutes from Annandale city police, rescue, fire and ambulance service.
  • A new storage building for the decontamination unit was provided, which saved time for staff by not having to transport the unit each day to an offsite, secure building.
  • Land line phone service and WiFi phone access to request assistance if needed, communicate with the inspection service provider, obtain medical assistance and law enforcement assistance.

The wide-ranging achievements and positive community support, for the most part, in 2018 demonstrated that the program had surplus capacity for the available traffic. A 2019 expansion was operationally ready to add an additional six lakes (Cedar, Granite, Maple, Bass, Sugar, Moose), which would provide even more traffic to prove the WRIP’s cost-effectiveness.

The 2019 version of the program also would add a new "spot-checker" position that would offer exit inspections for all lakes in the program within a 15-mile radius of the centralized inspection station in Annandale. The six lakes all had committed and known funding levels for each lake as their share of costs associated with additional numbers of inspections.

The spot-checker would be a DNR-certified Level 1 inspector who, when at a ramp, would inspect all boats exiting the ramp. In addition, the spot-checker would verify that seals of inbound boats are unbroken before launch and ensure that boaters that do not park at the ramp comply with the ordinance.

In the past, the lack of exit inspections was a frequent criticism of the WRIP program—and on the face of it, that may have seemed counter-intuitive to some. Other challenges about the illegal re-use of boat tag receipts became another criticism not only with a minority of users but also the DNR. The tagging issue was succinctly addressed in a March 27, 2019, letter to Steven Colvin, director for the DNR’s division of Ecological and Water Resources, from Luke Johnson, a district manager for the Wright Soil and Water Conservation District – a major partner in the WRIP.

In addressing the “Tagging Protocol,” SWCD’s Johnson wrote:

“There were some problems in 2018 with the seal and receipt model that we are looking to address in 2019 with the quality control spot-checkers. In 2018 there were 261 instances of reuse from the 5,268 seal/receipts issued. The 2019 spot checks will occur randomly at each of the public ramps in the program, staff will verify seals are still affixed and the broken seal is placed in the box. A boater arriving with only a receipt would be informed that a new seal and receipt is required whenever water related equipment travels over a public road.”

“Making mid-season changes to the seal/receipt process was discussed after evidence of re-use was discovered. We felt that implementing an expiration date on seals/receipts mid-season was a major change to the program that would be very difficult to educate the public of and may further erode public confidence in the program.”

Earlier in Johnson’s letter, he expressed the apparent frustration with DNR response times, critical delays—perhaps by choice, indifference or through bureaucratic under sight—that often overshadowed the WRIP process and what was initially seen as a truly collaborative partnership between a robust state agency and a well-organized citizen driven initiative to protect Minnesota waters.

Johnson’s remarks included:

“We are certainly aware the 2018 Wright Regional Inspection Program (WRIP) had some operational shortcomings. Many of these concerns were discussed between SWCD and DNR staff during the 2018 program. Your written comments on the 2018 season are very much appreciated as constructive criticism, which is always a useful tool for positive change. With that said, I must stress that receiving these comments after the plan for the current season has been submitted puts the SWCD in a reactionary position that could have been avoided. Your staff members that have been working on this program are quite knowledgeable and have been very available to Wright SWCD staff when questions have arisen, it would be very helpful for future operations if these individuals could provide official comments on the front end in order to expedite the process and reduce unnecessary revisions”.

An inspection seal tag is attached to a boat entering a lake; some cited occasional abuse of this process. The state agency had to approve the expansion program by April 15, 2019, to ensure that another full boating and fishing season could provide additional data points that the DNR claimed were deficient in the previous year. The newly enhanced WRIP program would add only $60,000 for new spot-checker component—“almost double the $34,600 that has been provided for the same lakes in Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District, by comparison,” noted Hector.

Funding sources remained largely in place from previous year, with an additional $128,314.00 added to the bottom line in 2019, which included funds from lake associations that were part of the expansion. Most associated with the WRIP believed these costs were fiscally conservative and a responsible use of dollars to fight AIS, plus a good investment in water resources for all users for the present and future.

Despite efforts by Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates and the Minnesota Coalition of Lakes Associations, the WRIP failed. Operations ceased on July 12, 2019.

Chris Hector and fellow board members Blaine Barkley, Doug Flatz and Kathy Jonsrud issued a brief, four-point checklist appraisal of the abrupt collapse of what looked to be a promising program that could have become another viable platform to manage and prevent the spread of AIS:

  1. No support from the DNR to fund or enforce a regional inspection model. The lack of DNR engagement and a long-term funding model was interpreted as a negative by Wright County Commissioners.
  2. The DNR and the Wright County Commissioners faced community polarization regarding the program. Strong support or strong opposition was the norm.
  3. The threat and impact of aquatic invasive species is either not fully understood or is minimized by some boaters.
  4. Exit inspections for the participating lakes were requested by the DNR and some members of the public. Exit inspections at the regional site are only possible if the DNR requires boaters to return to the site after leaving a participating lake.

What was your relationship with the DNR?

In short, the plug was prematurely pulled before the WRIP had a chance to demonstrate success with the efficiencies of a nine-lake program, and to benefit from the learning that an expanded effort would generate. Others may wonder if total project costs—not to mention the thousands of hours of unpaid time put in by board members, coalition partners and individual volunteers—had not been in vain.

When you look at the background of those involved in this project, however, we were able to bring forward the expertise from the scientific community, the legal community, project management community, public affairs community and other professions -- an incredible list of extremely talented individuals, not just a group of everyday people trying to do something. We had an unusually high degree of quality and expertise that the DNR or other organizations would be hard pressed to put together.

Conclusions (from 2018 season)

As a first for the state, the pilot program provided a great deal of information about the potential of regional inspection programs. The primary information learned was, the opportunities for improvement, logistics regarding traffic, tag returns and enforcement, the benefits of regional inspections, and the minimum costs.

One aspect of WRIP that is both a benefit and a challenge is the number of partners involved. Between the volunteers from lake associations, law enforcement, Wright SWCD, Wright County, legal, the DNR, and contracts there are a lot of voices in the room. This can be a challenge when it comes to decision making but also provides the opportunity for many great ideas.

The greatest benefit to using a regional model was the combination of traffic to one location. There was a 51% increase in entering boater traffic and the inspectors stayed just as busy as they did at the ramp based on inspections per hour. In addition, boaters who failed inspection no longer required any additional travel to reach a decontamination station as it was on site.

The logistics of the regional approach worked well. The benefit combining the traffic from multiple ramps mitigated the negative effect on inspections per hour of expanded coverage and no required exit inspections. Even with the combined traffic, there was very little wait for boaters.

The WRIP remains an important example and collaborative strategy for future consideration. While it could have become a major tool in the AIS battle, it would be wrong to relegate its significance to footnote status. Remnants of the program will still exist with courtesy decontaminations available at 1300 Business Blvd in Annandale.

There remains a highly concentrated and formidable knowledge base–and data sets–among the WRIP stakeholder groups whose expertise will prove invaluable to other counties, lawmakers and concerned citizens that may one day want to add regional inspection to their AIS war chest. The model is forged and its viability is proven. There are alternative ways to salvage its utility. Perhaps the suggestion by Blaine Barkley is prudent to seriously consider: Restart the program as part of a MAIRSC effort to improve preservation of Minnesota waters.

WRIP leaders encourage the legislature to keep exploring innovative methods to control AIS and improve the inspection process across the board. It should also be asking the DNR to engage in a more collaborative process with citizen groups to solve shared resource problems that demand the participation of the public.

Overall LSOHC AIS Prevention Program Conclusions

Because some projects were delivered under budget, and two others were suspended, we anticipate “de-obligating” (not requesting allocated LSOHC funds) of nearly $500,000 in June.

As we prepare to conclude the project, we are reflecting back on the various strategies that were developed, including:

  • Strategies to target “unusual suspects” for AIS prevention education (youth, wakeboarders, social media users)
  • Emerging strategies to treat identified infestations through a range of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs, seeking greater treatment efficacy, cost/benefit, and/or reduced non-target impacts.
  • Non-traditional inspection and/or decontamination programs to either improve convenience of engaging in ‘best practices” (through tagging, advance scheduling, placement of boat cleaning station at key locations, and enhanced skills in managing people by AIS inspectors), creation of innovative partnerships between resorts, sportsmen’s organizations, and lake associations to collaborate on AIS prevention and exploration of the state’s first mandatory inspection program.

Innovative education and outreach:

Innovative AIS control and education programs have been widely acknowledged as far removed from the traditional stable of conservation easement and high-priority land acquisition programs that the LSOHC generally espouses. However, these projects, though not permanent in nature, address the significant impacts to land and water resources that AIS pose. Left untreated, AIS severely impacts the habitat and outdoor recreational opportunities that LSOHC is committed to preserving.

The fact that many of the partners engaged in this project had not previously partnered with LSOHC resulted in a delay in many projects getting started; they weren’t prepared to seize the opportunity that matching funds represented. This, in part, is why we requested an extension to carry the project into a sixth year. Despite this delay, we are proud of the outcomes (and even the “lessons learned”) through this effort, and are grateful to the LSOHC for extending support well outside the traditional investments.

Projects supported by these funds surfaced many innovative strategies for engaging citizens that have either historically been considered “disengaged” with traditional AIS prevention messaging (wakeboarders), are potentially “influencers” (teenagers that are both future recreationalists, and also highly effective at bugging their parents to engage in best AIS prevention practices), as well as those have recognized and value AIS prevention messages but have been too busy or cognizant of countervailing economic pressures (resort owners and tourism boosters). In the first two examples, we have no doubt that the videos produced by the Mississippi Headwaters Board to reach wakeboarders (available on mississippiheadwaters.org) or the “Wipe Out Invasive Species” toilet paper (developed using private funds), which was part of the Crow River Organization for Water (CROW) programming, were clever, reached new audiences and changed knowledge, even if changes in behavior are difficult to document.

In contrast, the partnership on Lake Vermilion and in Cass and Itasca counties linked education (to resort owners and their guests) with direct action (sponsoring resort staff to help with inspections, etc.) and not only changed knowledge and behavior, but also forged lasting relationships between constituencies that have not always seen common interest.

The two CD3 projects (hosted by Wildlife Forever) were somewhere between these examples – they explored innovative ideas (use of geo-fencing to deliver location-specific information on fishing conditions and AIS risk or best practices; WiFi stations to support targeted videos at points of access or decontamination) and identified specific barriers (poor internet connections in rural locations), but also modified their product and project to respond to this input. In the end, the self-contained boat-cleaning stations now reflect designs most likely to be used, most resistant to vandalism and damage, and hopefully at a cost that local units of government and/or private resorts could consider deploying them without future state support.

A project initiated by the Aitkin Soil and Water Conservation District addressed a recent and unpopular caveat of Minnesota law requiring the dumping of bait and prohibition on the transport of water on exit from a lake. They incentivized bait shops and fishermen by providing clean water in bags to save bait, and also provided a deposit on the bags to encourage recycling.

In Cass County, AIS inspectors received “enhanced training,” both to equip them with knowledge and context for why inspections and decontamination are required and essential, but also in de-escalation techniques to manage difficult people and/or conflicts with public access users. In addition to improving the quality of interactions inspectors had with access users, the County also found that they retained veteran, skilled inspectors that received enhanced training at a much greater rate, saving time and money from season to season.

Five projects involved the direct treatment of known aquatic invasive species (as a strategy to prevent spread to other waters), and each contributed significantly to greater knowledge and should inform future work or investments in this type of approach.

The Marine-Carnelian Watershed District has long struggled with cost, ecological impact and efficacy of treating Eurasian watermilfoil. Their pilot project (developed in close coordination with DNR fisheries staff) resulted in several years of data that suggest they have identified an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technique which is highly effective at reducing EWM reproduction or spread and has fewer nontarget impacts.

Two other treatment examples (of invasive cattails in Voyageurs National Park and of starry stonewort in Lake Koronis) were truly pilot efforts to control species not previously successfully managed in the upper Midwest. All would agree that the Koronis effort (at the first confirmed location of starry stonewort in Minnesota) has resulted in new insights and refined treatment of this invasive filamentous algae (even more important now that is has spread to over a dozen additional lakes within our state). Likewise, although management of the invasive cattails is less likely to be a priority outside of the National Park, the success of the approaches developed by Voyagers project is likely to permanently guide resource management plans, and like the Vermillion/Cass/Itasca project, helped create or deepen relationships (in this case with an adjacent tribal nation).

The fourth effort of treatment was intense mechanical treatment at public landings in Carver County (in lakes with known infestations of invasive species) with the goal of reducing export of viable AIS. This program provided “inconclusive results”—reducing vegetation near public accesses did not seem to impact the amount of vegetation (whether native or invasive) on boats exiting the lake.

Likewise, an effort by the Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District to trap rusty crawfish in areas immediately adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness proved less than successful as weather conditions, existing crawfish populations, and available staff hindered their ability to trap sufficient numbers of the crustaceans to significantly impact overall populations. The bright spot in that effort was their educational strategy; SWCD staff participated in local fairs and events, holding "crawfish boils” and distributing information.

Efforts to improve the convenience or ease, cost, or efficacy of inspection and decontamination programs were the most difficult to assess. The Carver County effort to “tag” clean boats was intended to expedite re-entry, but DNR staff quickly expressed concerns about the quality of inspections and requested suspension of the effort.

In Kandiyohi County a valiant attempt was made to improve the speed and convenience of inspection by allowing for “reservations” (similar to a restaurant or barber) so that recreationalists could be “in and out” quickly. Although this idea continues to hold great appeal, a combination of limited marketing of the service, greater cost than anticipated, and turnover (both of paid county staff, and of the County Board that originally supported the project) resulted in early termination without ever fully testing the concept.

At Lake Vermillion an effort was made to improve the accuracy of boat traffic prediction as a strategy to most cost-effectively allocate AIS inspection resources, but a primary conclusion was that boat traffic patterns will vary so much (based on recreational uses, land ownership, and other variables) that a single algorithm or model is of limited value.

At the other extreme, Wright County attempted to explore the benefits and concerns associated with the first-in-Minnesota mandatory inspection program (similar to those in many western states), but found that the project experienced both regulatory barriers (particularly to scale the project so that is was cost-effective) and political opposition from well-organized advocates which created a climate where the project proponents felt the idea was never given an opportunity to succeed. The Initiative Foundation (LSOHC project hosts) supported this effort in full recognition that it would generate controversy, but in the hope of identifying conditions in which it could be successful, even if modifications were required over time.

The Citizens League’s Civic Governance Project’s project to increase coordination and collaboration between state/local governments and stakeholder groups revealed that a focus on Civic Leadership Development, while slow, is more sustainable than a simple civic engagement strategy. An organizing approach to water quality issues, including AIS, shows some promise in boosting the energy and quality of programs.

The Initiative Foundation was hopeful of hosting an “open house” for LSOHC members (and the public) in spring 2020 to tour project sites and ask questions directly from site managers. Given the pace of the legislative session, and other logistical barriers, we are instead producing a more lay-friendly version (illustrated with project specific professional photography and paid for with Foundation funds) to enhance recognition and understanding of the value of this project. Identical text (without photography) will be submitted to the council to fulfill our technical reporting obligations. To control (non-LSOHC) costs, this will be provided in PDF form, but commission members are encouraged to print copies for their own use, and the photography will be made available through LSOHC staff for future use.

Supporting Content

This report was created in Adobe Spark. For the best viewing experience, visit the online presentation.


Photos by Paul Middlestaedt, unless noted otherwise.