AIS Q&A

SHIELDING POTATO LAKE FROM AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES

Potato Lake has actively supported watercraft inspection for AIS over the past several years.  With some financial help from Lake Emma Township, the Lake Association has provided the majority of the financial resources to conduct these inspections.  In 2012 the program was managed by the Hubbard County SWCD.

The Lake Association has committed to providing 1000 hours of inspection in 2013.  This will require lake residents to provide the necessary financial resources again.  Repeated questions are asked as to why and what is the benefit.  Below are answers to some of the questions.

Q1. WHY SHOULD POTATO LAKE ASSOCIATION BE STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE TO ADDRESS AIS (AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES) AGAIN IN 2013?

        A1. The answer is simple: Potato Lake is the 3rd most valuable lake (tax base wise) in Hubbard County.  It has a TMV (Taxable market value) of water-related properties of about $115M. Lake Emma Township is the most valuable township in Hubbard County with a TMV on water-related properties of $357M. Arago is the 6th most valuable at about $139M.  Collectively, water-related properties make up 83.4% of the TMV of all property in the two townships. These properties provide a majority of the tax revenue from the two townships for the county and townships. Research has shown that if a lake becomes infested with an AIS (most notable Eurasian water milfoil), property values can plummet as much as 13%.  Some estimates suggest much higher reductions for zebra mussels…..possibly as high as 30%. Potato Lake must participate in the DNR’s “shielding strategy” to help protect the property values on our lake.

Q2. WHAT EXACTLY IS MEANT BY THE EXPRESSION “SHIELDING HUBBARD COUNTY LAKES FROM AIS”?

        A2.  It is a total effort by all citizens, government, businesses, lake associations, & COLA to prevent the spread of AIS to Hubbard County. With some technical resources from the DNR, local citizens and organizations take the lead in funding and organizing prevention work. Protection of Hubbard County lakes is critical to property value protection and the preservation of the corresponding tax revenue, as well as the lake experience that defines our county.  Prevention has several forms: Education & Public awareness, early detection through water sampling & monitoring, watercraft inspection, and rapid response to any detected infestation.  Support of all these initiatives has been the focus of Hubbard County COLA and lake associations for the past 8 years, with townships, SWCD, and county commissioners joining the fight in the past few years. Although the DNR has responsibility for protecting the lakes, we live with the consequences.

Q3. TO THOSE WHO WOULD SAY, “WHY DON’T WE WAIT FOR THE DNR TO SOLVE AIS ISSUES IN HUBBARD COUNTY?”

        A3.  The DNR is funded by monies appropriated by the state legislature which sets the amount allocated to AIS.  Up until 2011, the amount was about $4million.  For the 2012/2013 fiscal years this was increased to $8.6M including a one-time allocation of $4.5M.  Governor Dayton’s proposed budget for FY2014/2015 is $7.85M for AIS.  A reduction of $.75M. The good news is that the one-time allocation has been replaced by $3.75M from the general fund.  This locks in sustainable funding.  In addition, the legislature has funded a new research facility at the University of Minnesota to focus on AIS. Of note, to date, no increase in watercraft license fees has passed the legislature.  An increase to support AIS work has been proposed by the DNR several times but not passed. Bottom line is the DNR is limited in what they can do financially. It has championed several laws on bait dealers, lake service providers, and the public to help prevent the spread.  It has provided over $250K annually in grants for watercraft inspection. It has hired staff AIS Specialists, Trainers, etc. for our Northwest Region to support local organizations in prevention work.

To be most effective in AIS work, the DNR has focused most of their resources on containment of AIS to already infested lakes.  Over 90% of watercraft inspections resources in 2012 were on infested lakes.  The DNR strategy is to ask local governments (county and townships) and lake associations (without state funding) to “shield their lakes” while the DNR focuses resources on infested lakes.  If Hubbard County waits for the DNR to have enough resources it will be too late.  We must take responsibility to do all we can to prevent introduction of AIS while the DNR focuses on containment and research.

Q4. IN AN OVERVIEW, WHAT ARE OTHER TOWNSHIPS/LAKE ASSOCIATIONS DOING TO SHIELD HUBBARD COUNTY LAKES FROM AIS?

        A4. Township participation has been a bright spot in our prevention work. Until a few years ago, Hubbard COLA and lake associations provided all the financial and manpower resources to “shield our lakes”.  In the past few years, townships were the first government sector to support AIS work.  In 2012 Lake Emma Township (the highest TMV Township in Hubbard County) contributed $10,000.  Last year, with the help of a DNR Grant and a Joint Powers Agreement with the SWCD, COLA engaged in a comprehensive watercraft inspection program. The cost was about $80K.  About $20K came from townships and cities. The remainder came from lake associations and lake property owners.  In 2013, our goal is a 50/50 mix between lake associations and government. The Hubbard County AIS Task Force expects to achieve this goal.  Additional townships will be participating, the city of Park Rapids has committed money, and the County commissioners have allocated $35,000.  We are targeting $30,000 from townships. In 2012, the townships of Mantrap, Henrietta, Hubbard, Lake Emma, Arago, and the city of Nevis financially supported AIS watercraft inspections. Without their support we could not have the high level of watercraft inspection coverage of the lakes in Hubbard County that we need.

Q5. FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS HUBBARD COLA HAS “LED THE CHARGE AGAINST AIS IN HUBBARD COUNTY”…WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN ACOMPLISHED?

        A5. Well there are a lot of “firsts” that COLA can claim for the entire state.  Overall, it has built a reputation at the state level of being be leaders and innovators in AIS prevention at the local level. They are sought out for advice from other county organizations and have mentored several. They have built a very strong partnership with the DNR, Townships, and county commissioners. They have worked with resort/campground owners.  They visit over 60 of them each year with AIS educational materials. Our public awareness efforts (billboards, radio announcements, and endless educational materials) have been recognized across the state.  The support of lake associations has been exceptional.  AIS coordinators have been assigned for each lake and active AIS monitoring and volunteer inspections are done by lake association members. Our watercraft inspection program is second to none.  Collaborating with the SWCD, they conducted over 7100 watercraft inspections with over 4700 hours of inspection time in 2012.  The 7100 inspections represented about 1/3 of the inspections done across the state under 18 LGU grant programs in 2012.  We are leaders in “shielding” our lakes. Finally, but not least, we can be extremely proud of the support we have received from the county commissioners.  The resolution to form a county-wide task force in 2011, with representation from nine stakeholder groups, clearly set the tone for the county.  The commitment of $35,000 for watercraft inspections in 2013 adds to their demonstrated leadership. This is all capped with the recognition of our leadership on AIS through Ken Grob’s appointment in 2012 to the state level AIS Advisory Committee by DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.                                             

Ken Grob 2/11/2013

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