OTC AIS program moves forward

Spencer McGrew

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

The Otter Tail County Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) program, in its ninth year in 2021, continued to take a proactive approach in stopping the spread of invasives throughout the county. 

Among the achievements, in a prepared statement by county AIS Specialist Spencer McGrew for county board members on March 15, were 22 watercraft inspectors logging 9,465 watercraft inspection hours at 97 county public water accesses totaling 12,660 inspections. 

“Of the 6,335 entering watercraft 307 were prevented from launching with aquatic plants hanging from them,” McGrew said.

A total of 44 watercraft were prevented from launching for containing residual water and five watercraft were prevented from launching due to attached Zebra Mussels. 

The state of Minnesota has a rule to keep drain plugs out and water-draining devices open while transporting watercraft.

To that end, close to 94 percent of watercraft arrived in Otter Tail County, in 2021, with the drain plug removed. 

“A decontamination unit was placed at Otter Tail Lake Sportsman’s Public Water Access and was staffed Thursday through Sunday from May 21 to Sept. 14,” McGrew said. “We had 26 decontaminations that were performed in 2021.”

As of Oct. 28, 2021, Otter Tail County had 92 waterbodies, rivers or streams designated as infested with Aquatic Invasive Species. Of those, 89 waterbodies, rivers or streams are designated as infested with Zebra Mussels, and 3 waterbodies, rivers or streams are designated as infested with Flowering Rush. 

Nine new waterbodies, rivers or streams were designated as infested by Zebra Mussels in 2021. One waterbody was designated as infested with Flowering Rush. 

“Many of these waterbodies, rivers or streams were listed due to being downstream of infested waters,” McGrew said. “No Otter Tail County waterbodies are designated as infested with Eurasian Watermilfoil or Starry Stonewort.”

The AIS program moving forward

“Our county Aquatic Invasive Species program is robust and well received by the public,” McGrew said. “We will continue to refine our existing programing while exploring new and novel methods of Aquatic Invasive Species prevention.”

As part of the Sheriff’s Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program, 27 sworn officers maintained the training required, in 2021, to enforce aquatic invasive species laws. The full time Aquatic Invasive Species deputy made 196 contacts with boaters and issued 12 warnings and 2 citations for aquatic invasive species violations. 

Otter Tail County has 16 I-LID cameras under management. The West Battle Lake Lakeshore Association donated funds to support the acquisition of a new I-LIDS system for the West Battle Lake East Public Water Access. 

“Additionally, we worked with the city of Battle Lake to place an I-LIDS system at the city-owned public water access,” McGrew said.

  In total, 37,405 videos were reviewed and 7,068 watercraft were counted. Three suspect AIS violations were forwarded to the county Sheriff’s Department. 

The Train the Teachers to Train the Kids Program puts Aquatic Invasive Species curriculum into 15 classrooms across 11 school districts in Otter Tail County.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and classroom adjustments, only three presentations were conducted at Perham High School. Additionally, three virtual presentations were conducted in the Parkers Prairie School system.”

Overall, 124 Otter Tail County students were reached in 2021. 

After months of planning and coordination with the DNR and the city of Perham, a self-service watercraft rinse station was installed in August 2021 at Paul Miller Park in Perham. 

The station pumps filtered lake water to a hose reel, allowing the watercraft user to rinse and spray equipment before and after launching. 

Otter Tail County’s AIS Prevention Program has partnerships with 17 local governments including one township, two cities, and 15 counties across the state.