Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Program
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In 2014 the State of Minnesota first offered Local Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Aid to all counties for the purpose of stopping the spread and/or preventing the introduction of aquatic invasive species, such as Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels. A Stearns County AIS Task Force was formed for the purpose of developing a County AIS Plan to best use these funds.
View the County Plan and Appendices.
As of August 2015 the aquatic invasive species that have been identified in Stearns County include Zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, Curly leaf pondweed, Flowering rush, and Starry stonewort. As more complete information is gathered on the lakes, rivers and streams there will probably be more infestations found. The lakes of Stearns County that are known to have Zebra mussels include Clearwater Lake, Lake Augusta, Grass Lake, Otter Lake, Lake Sylvia, Watab Lake, Rossier Lake, and Big Birch Lake. The South Fork of the Watab River and the Mississippi River are also known to have zebra mussels. A number of lakes have Eurasian watermilfoil and Curly leaf pondweed. For a complete list of confirmed infestations, follow link to the DNR website.
In 2015 an infestation of Starry stonewort was identified in Lake Koronis and Mud Lake. This was the first instance of Starry stonewort identified in Minnesota. It has also been identified in Rice Lake in 2016. Starry stonewort is a large algae in the Characeae family. It can grow to over two meters tall. Fragments can easily be spread between lakes by boats, trailers, and anchors holding sediments. Local dispersal can occur by fragments being transported by water currents or boats. Starry stonewort forms dense mats that greatly reduce the diversity of aquatic plants in the lake and impede spawning activity. Mats growing to the surface can reduce water flow and make recreational activities difficult.
View DNR's Starry Stonewart Fact Sheet for more information.
How to stop the spread of AIS
The best known means of stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species is for individuals to responsibly clean and dry their boats, trailers, docks, rafts, etc. prior to leaving one body of water and before putting into another body of water. If everyone follows the "Inspection and Cleaning Guidelines" the spread of these destructive infestations can be largely halted.
Local AIS Fund
The Stearns AIS Committee is utilizing some of the aquatic invasive species prevention funds for countywide initiatives, such as educational outreach, a survey of the signage at the watercraft launches, and the development of a Rapid Response Plan. The bulk of the funds are dispersed through a Request for Proposal process. Any lake association, city, township, watershed district, Lake Improvement District, or coalition of lake associations is eligible to apply for funding for AIS prevention initiatives.
The Stearns AIS prevention funds were awarded as listed below. (Funds will become available again at the end of 2016 for use in 2017)
Proposals included initiatives for:
- Education and outreach
- Watercraft inspections by DNR-trained personnel at public accesses
- Management of existing populations of curly leaf pondweed, Eurasion watermilfoil and starry stonewort
- Survey of lakes to determine current vegetation
2016 Award Recipients:
Avon Area Lakes $7,000 | Big Fish Lake $11,016 | Big Watab Lake $13,567.80 | Clearwater Lake $14,000 | Grand Lake $8,489.75 | Lake Koronis $20,600 | Little Birch Lake $6,000 | North Browns Lake $5,833.33 | North Fork Crow River Watershed District (for Rice and Koronis Lakes) $35,000 | Pearl Lake $3,333.33 | Pelican Lake of St. Anna $500 | Pirz Lake $6,988 | Pleasant Lake $10,000 | Sauk River Chain of Lakes $16,833.33 | Sauk River Watershed District $14,674.00 | Stearns Coalition of Lake Associations $500 | Two River Lake $8,000
The Stearns AIS Committee held a warkshop on October 11, 2016 to assist local residents interested in applying for AIS funds for 2017. The following presentations were part of the workshop.
Stearns County Aquatic Invasive Species Report
The Stearns County Report on Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Aid in 2015 covers how the local AIS Prevention Aid was spent in 2015 and the AIS prevention measures that have taken place at the county level.
Stearns County Rapid Response Plan
The AIS Committee contracted to have a local Rapid Response Plan developed. The best means of preventing the destruction that AIS causes is through prevention and prevention is the highest priority. However, in those few cases in which a new and isolated AIS is discovered, the Plan can be used to best deal with the infestation. The Rapid Response Plan is adaptable to each lake association and can be individualized by the lake association.
View the Stearns County Rapid Response Plan
Lake Service Provider Training and Permit
In 2011 the Minnesota legislature passed a law requiring that lake service provider businesses complete AIS training and are permitted. Anyone hiring a lake service provider to install or remove water-related equipment should hire a provider that is trained and permitted.
Visit the DNR's website for a list of the permitted providers.
Aquatic Plant Surveys
The Stearns County AIS Committee has developed a guidance document to assist with aquatic vegetation surveys. The guidance document addresses the questions of why a survey should be conducted, what type of survey is most appropriate, and when the optimal time is.
View the Stearns County AIS Aquatic Plant Survey Guidance Document
Another document was developed listing the companies that perform aquatic vegetation surveys that are known to the AIS Committee. If there are companies that were missed it is because they were not known. Any missed companies will be added when known. The list is not intended to be an endorsement of any particular company.
View the list of Aquatic Vegetation Survey Companies