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Sam Cook, Forum Communications Co., Published April 22 2012

Sticker shock: Minnesota boaters need invasive species sticker before hitting water this year

DULUTH, Minn. – Minnesota anglers and boaters will have one more item on their checklists this year when they head to the lakes.

A law passed last year requires that all watercraft have a sticker (seen at right) on board listing the state’s rules about aquatic invasive species.

The stickers have been hard to find but are now available at all Department of Motor Vehicle offices across the state, said Mike Scott, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer who specializes in aquatic invasive species. They’re also available at all DNR regional offices.

“We’re getting supplies out to local vendors,” Scott said. “Check with your local sporting goods stores. They’re getting them, but it’s been a bit slow.”

But most retailers don’t have the stickers yet.

“We’ll keep trying to fight to get them,” said Russ Francisco of Marine General Supply in Duluth. “Can you imagine standing in line for an hour (at a DMV office) to get a free sticker?”

Francisco said most boaters are not aware the new stickers are required.

The stickers are required on boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, personal watercraft – all watercraft, Scott says.

Some boaters don’t like the idea of adorning their boat with a sticker, and some boats don’t have a lot of room for them. The DNR offers an option, Scott said.

“It just has to be attached to the watercraft where it’s visible,” he said. “Somewhere inside the watercraft so if we ask you, you can point to it.”

The stickers can be laminated to a piece of Plexiglas, for instance, Scott says. The Plexiglas can then be attached somewhere on the watercraft.

“Drill a hole in it and put it on your key ring or something,” he suggests. “On a canoe, tie it to a thwart.”

Legislation passed last year also allows law enforcement officers to conduct road checks to inspect watercraft for invasive species.

“It’s not like the old DUI stops,” Scott said. “It’s just another tool. We’ll be dealing with nothing but people pulling water-related equipment. We’re not looking for anything else.”

However, Scott said, if other violations are found, officers will deal with them.

One of the state’s pressure-washing decontamination units will be stationed at each road check, he said. If boats are found to have invasive species on them, the pressure washers will be used to clean the boats before they can proceed.

After experimenting with three pressure-washing systems last year, the DNR purchased 20 more for this summer. They will be distributed around the state and moved from lake to lake in areas of infested waters, said Rich Rezanka, an invasive species specialist for the ecological services division of the DNR at Grand Rapids.

Six of those units will be in Region 2 (northeastern Minnesota), Rezanka said. One will be stationed at Jay Cooke State Park, to be used on nearby waters such as the St. Louis River, Pike Lake, Mille Lacs and others, he said.

“It’s a prevention measure,” Rezanka said. “They’ll be out every day all summer.”

The units will be attended by DNR boat inspection employees.

The DNR’s Scott said anglers are expected to know the invasive species rules, most of which were in effect all of last summer. DNR officers will be more likely to issue tickets than warnings this summer, he said.

“There were a fair amount of warnings last year,” Scott said. “The department is taking a stand. We’ve educated the public. For those that don’t know the rules, we’re stepping it up. I don’t want to write that ticket, but we need to do this now so that we can keep the same experience today for the future.”

Sam Cook writes for the Duluth News Tribune