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DNR citing more boaters for invasive species violations

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It's more likely that your boat will be inspected for invasive species, and if you are carrying the destructive aquatic pests, it's more likely that you will be cited.

In a news release, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that it is ramping up enforcement efforts this weekend to try to thwart the spread of invasive species in state lakes and rivers.

The DNR reports that watercraft inspectors have found more than 1,300 boaters at public water accesses with aquatic plants, invasive animals or water in or on their boats and equipment. "If not stopped, these boaters could have infested other lakes," the release notes. DNR conservation officers have issued 169 citations and 375 warning tickets to boaters for invasive species violations at enforcement check stations and public accesses. Fines range from $100 to $500.

The DNR has 23 decontamination units at various bodies of water in Minnesota.

“Far too many people are still not following the law,” said Greg Salo, DNR central region enforcement manager. “Some of these laws have been on the books for more than 15 years and yet we’re still seeing a 26 percent violation rate at enforcement check stations. That’s unacceptable. Violators should know better by now.”

The most common violation is when boaters fail to pull their boat plug and keep it out while transporting their boats. That allows them to carry the species from lake to lake.

Last week, the Forum News Service noted that inspections and DNR checkpoints on and around Lake Melissa and multiple nearby lakes in Becker County have ramped up this summer after zebra mussels were discovered in the lakes region around Detroit Lakes.

"It was pretty disheartening to see that the efforts to keep it out of here were unsuccessful," said Ken Raschke, 68, a Lake Melissa property owner. "We just have to hope at some point they find a way to deal with them."

Zebra mussels are present in several lakes in Otter Tail County, but Lake Melissa is the first lake in Becker County where the invasive mussels have been confirmed, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The Becker County Sheriff's Department has three deputies committed to aquatic invasive species investigation this year, up from two last summer. The DNR has an estimated 25 inspectors in northwestern Minnesota, about half are stationed in Otter Tail and Becker counties, according to the DNR.

The DNR and county officials are using volunteers to educate neighbors and be on guard. Last year, Becker County started a lakeshore ambassador program, with volunteers on two lakes. This year, that program has been increased to seven lakes. While Becker County Sherriff Kelly Shannon said the public is "overwhelmingly supportive" of the effort to stop the spread of the destructive species, he hopes state money will allow more inspectors to be hired.

"Unfortunately, it's a battle that's going to be continuing on," Shannon said.

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