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Minnesota boaters don't have to take invasive species test after Legislature repeals it

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The Department of Natural Resources is permanently shelving a plan that would have required boaters in Minnesota to pass a 30-minute training program on aquatic invasive species (AIS) and display a decal on their trailer in order to pull their boat anywhere in the state.

The new "trailer and decal" program had been scheduled to begin on July 1. But lawmakers and resort owners raised objections to the requirements earlier this year, and the Legislature repealed the program during the recently ended special legislative session, the DNR explained in a news release.

In its place, the Legislature added an AIS "affirmation provision" that boaters and nonresident anglers will need to sign when they get licenses. The new provision doesn't start until next year.

Concerns about the training program

The trailer and decal program was created as part of the Aquatic Invasive Species Training Law, which passed in 2012 as a way to help prevent the growth of aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian water milfoil in Minnesota lakes.

One of the main ways they are spread is by hitching rides on boats that are taken from lake to lake.

The law would have required boaters to take the training program and pass a test to receive a decal to display on their boat trailer.

The DNR was set to begin offering the training earlier this year. But resort owners began complaining about the law, in part because it didn't exempt boaters coming here from out of state.

It also would have applied to people who were simply hauling boats through the state but not using them in Minnesota waters.

Now lawmakers have repealed that law and replaced it with the affirmation provision, which goes into effect in 2016.

People who apply for a new watercraft license and nonresident fishing license will get a summary of Minnesota's aquatic invasive species laws, and they'll be required to sign a form saying they've read and understand the information. There's no additional fee involved.

The education efforts are still needed; the agency says about 20 percent of boaters violate current laws that require them to check their craft for invasive species after they pull it out of the water.

Difficult to control

Invasive species, like zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas, can easily be carried from lake to lake on aquatic plants that are left on a boat or trailer. If they enter a lake, their population can increase rapidly, hurting the health of the water. They can also be harmful to humans.

There are some methods that have helped control invasive species, but it has been difficult to completely get rid of them.

The DNR has been dealing with the spread of invasive species in numerous Minnesota lakes in recent years. More than 175 lakes and rivers are infested with zebra mussels.

To prevent the spread, the DNR recommends boaters spray the boat with high pressure water, rinse it with hot water, or dry the boat and equipment for at least five days.

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