DNR checking boaters for compliance on invasive species

Glad there's no tax increase
Boaters in Minnesota faced higher fines as of July 1, 2012, for transporting invasive species. A boater on Lake Bemidji is pictured in a July 2011 file photo.
MPR Photo/Tom Robertson

WORTHINGTON, Minn. -- Fines for transporting invasive species in Minnesota doubled on July 1, and DNR officers are checking boats for violations over the July Fourth holiday period.

Robert Haberman, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, says most boaters are following the requirement that they check their boats and trailers for attached weeds before leaving a lake. But he says enforcement officers are finding another common violation has become their top concern.

"Right now, it's not draining your water," Haberman says. "It's pulling that drain plug and getting rid of all their bait water at the landing. And then replacing the water with fresh water from their vehicle. That's the one we're seeing mostly."

The effort is aimed at slowing the spread of invasive species like zebra mussels, spiny water fleas and eurasian water milfoil. Boaters could face up to a $500 penalty if they violate the invasive species law.

Haberman says the pests are easily spread.

"You're throwing an alien species into an ecosystem," he says, "and it just throws that ecosystem out of balance."

The DNR estimates that about 20 percent of state boaters are in violation of the invasive species law.