In Martin County: Anti-invasives plan OK’d

FAIRMONT — Martin County commissioners on Tuesday heard from Dustin Benes of the Martin Soil and Water Conservation District.

He provided an update on the Aquatic Invasive Species prevention plan, which the board approved for 2020. Benes shared the how and why behind the request, as well as a summary of educational efforts and activities taken during 2019.

“Each year, one of the requirements for us to get Aquatic Invasive Species funds is for us to have a prevention plan for each county submitted to the [Minnesota Department of Natural Resources],” he said. “This year we are allocated to get $94,033 for funds.

“They break that down by how many trailer launches that are in the county. We have 20 and they pay $2,232 per launch. It also goes by the watercraft and trailer parking spaces at each launch, and we have 213, and they pay $232 per spot.”

Benes recounted examples of efforts and activities over the past year, showing how the district is keeping the message of AIS in the public eye.

“For lake launches, we updated signs, and we put fresh paint on the stencils,” he said. “I’ll probably do the same next year.”

He noted that educational outreach is a big part of the effort.

“Last year, we sponsored the Prairie Ecology Bus that came to Fairmont and Martin County West, and they reached out to 202 seventh-graders to teach them about aquatic invasives,” he said. “During the Martin County West biology field day, I worked with their sophomore and junior class and talked about AIS.”

Benes said that during last year’s fishing tournament, the district sponsored products containing the AIS prevention message, including billboards and handouts.”

As for the invasive species themselves, Benes noted there is currently no problem in Martin County.

“We did some early monitoring and checking of sites periodically throughout the summer to make sure there were no zebra mussels or aquatic invasive plants,” he said. “I haven’t found anything; we did find some curly-leaf [pondweed] but it’s not in high enough concentrations to be a problem.”

Keeping a watchful eye is crucial to prevention efforts, especially due to some AIS near the area. Benes previously noted that zebra mussels and eurasian watermilfoil, along with Asian carp, have been found in Spirit Lake and Okoboji lakes in Iowa.

“If we got some eurasian watermilfoil or starry stonewort, then we’re in trouble,” he has said. “Those would plug water intakes for the [Fairmont drinking] water plant. I’m afraid if zebra mussels get here they’re going to plug the water intake and cause more problems with the city’s drinking water.”

The DNR reminds boaters and anglers to follow state laws to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species:

o Clean aquatic plants and animals from water craft.

o Drain all water by removing drain plugs, and keep drain plugs out while transporting watercraft.

o Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.

o Spray watercraft with high-pressure water and rinse with hot water (140 degrees).

o Dry for at least five days.


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