The battle to limit the damage done by invasive species in Minnesota’s lakes and rivers, and the possible introduction of new species each boating season, is a constant — and expensive — one.
The state invests millions of dollars in the fight each year.
This week, the St. Louis County Board approved the distribution of $779,411 of those state funds for nine projects aimed at preventing the introduction and limiting the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in lakes and rivers in St. Louis County.
Commissioners unanimously approved the list of projects during their meeting Tuesday in Duluth, according to a news release from the county.
The approved projects and funding include:
• $430,000 to the North St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District to manage watercraft inspections, decontaminations and public education on Bear Island, Birch, Burntside, Crane, Ely, Gilbert-Pit, Johnson, Kabetogama, One Pine, Pelican, Shagawa, and Vermilion Lakes.
• $115,000 to Wildlife Forever for marketing efforts for their Clean Drain Dry Initiative campaign aimed at public awareness and education, and behavioral change.
• $67,000 to the University of Minnesota Sea Grant for a pilot project to install CD3 hub stations at four public water accesses (St. Louis River Boy Scout and Munger Landings, Island Lake Abbott Road Landing, and Pike Lake Public Access) to enable boaters to self-inspect their own watercraft.
• $34,000 to Community Action Duluth for continued eradication, control, mapping, and monitoring of non-native phragmites in the St. Louis River Estuary.
• $30,800 to Vermilion Lake Association for continued watercraft inspections and cleaning; public awareness and education; habitat evaluation and threat assessment; early detection, response efforts and population management; and partnership development.
• $30,000 to Canosia Township for watercraft inspections and public education on Pike Lake and Caribou Lake.
• $25,000 to the Sturgeon Chain Lake Association for watercraft inspections and educational outreach on targeted dates on Big Sturgeon, West Sturgeon, Little Sturgeon, South Sturgeon, and Side Lake.
• $24,515 to Grand Lake Township for watercraft inspections on Caribou Lake.
• $23,096 to Burntside Lake Association for enhanced training of boat inspectors, promote the use of decontamination stations, improve public awareness and education about AIS, build early detection capabilities, and partnership development.
According to the County, each year, through the AIS Prevention Aid Program, the state legislature allocates funding to counties to be used to prevent the introduction or limit the spread of AIS. Through an application and proposal process, St. Louis County has sought out organizations to address AIS issues with multi-disciplinary, integrated solutions based on science, related to natural resources sustainability, and social and economic concerns. The County supports projects that address one or more of the seven categories and associated actions outlined in the St. Louis County AIS Prevention Plan.
The amount of funding received from the state is based on a formula that factors each county’s share of watercraft trailer launches and watercraft trailer parking spaces. Of Minnesota’s 87 counties, St. Louis County has the second highest number of watercraft trailer launches (171) and the highest number of watercraft trailer parking spaces (1,444).
According to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources figues, in 2021 level 1 and level 2 watercraft inspectors hired by the DNR, and 67 local units of government, with delegated authority from the DNR, accomplished more than 500,000 watercraft inspections, which makes Minnesota’s watercraft inspection program one of the largest in the nation.
Further, according to the DNR’s 2021 Invasive Species Annual Report, last year the program included 24 full-time positions, plus affiliated staff in DNR offices across the state, whose work is primarily or partly focused on invasive species.
The program, which addresses invasive species such as Eurasian watermilfoil, purple loosestrife, zebra mussel, spiny waterflea, starry stonewort, and invasive carp, is mostly funded by state tax dollars with additional funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The program received $4,772,537 from a general fund appropriation in 2021, of which $4,505,537 supported the AIS program and $267,000 supported the Terrestrial Invasive Species Program.
Of the approximately $4.8 million that comes from the invasive species account, roughly $3 million is generated from a $10.60 surcharge on watercraft registration in Minnesota and about $1.3 million comes from a fee on non-resident fishing licenses.
The state received about $1.2 million from the FWS.
Invasive species unit expenditures for fiscal year 2021 totaled $9,248.846.