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Initiative Quarterly

Foundation Awards $350,000 To Fight Invasives

October 23, 2017

Multi-county, statewide efforts aim to make serious inroads to enhance water quality, outdoor recreation, tourism while interrupting invasive species spread

The Initiative Foundation Board of Trustees has approved $350,000 for five innovative pilot projects that are anticipated to make inroads in the statewide effort to interrupt the spread of aquatic invasive species.
From a public recognition effort to train and celebrate lake businesses that join the inspection and early detection fight to a branded bait bag partnership with bait shop operators, the projects mark the final awards through a special five-year project supported by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

"With these projects, we're enlisting additional groups--including lake shore business owners and bait shop operators--to lend their assistance and cooperation in the partnership to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species," said John Sumption, statewide project manager for the Initiative Foundation-led effort. "It's another door-opener to get people taking direct action in the prevention of aquatic invasive species."

Based in Little Falls, the Initiative Foundation received $4.04 million in Legacy Amendment dollars during the 2014 Legislative session to fund and evaluate innovative pilot projects throughout Minnesota that limit or prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. 

Resort Ambassador Project

Focused in Cass and Itasca counties and the Lake Vermilion area, the resort ambassador project will work with resort, lodge, campground and marina owners to participate in early detection efforts. More than 130 lake businesses cater to thousands of guests annually in Cass and Itasca counties and the Lake Vermilion area. While inspection efforts are becoming more routine at public launch sites, a gap exists in private-sector marinas and other boat launching areas. Through training, compensation and participant recognition, it's anticipated that the resort ambassador project will create wider regional networks. The project also will reward private-access inspections, encourage early detection and enhance stewardship--all with the goal of long-term sustainability for Minnesota's tourism and angling industries.

Award amount: $210,000

Contact: Bill Grantges, Itasca County aquatic invasive species coordinator; coordinator(at)ItascaAis.Info or (218) 256-4243

Boat Bucket Water Project

There's no debate. Sometimes it's the bait. In Minnesota, to transport minnows from one lake to another, state law says anglers should replace the water in their buckets with tap or spring water. Few do, however, and it creates one more hole in the aquatic invasive species prevention bucket. The boat bucket water project, an effort by the Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District, will partner with up to 20 Aitkin County bait shops and resorts at the start of the 2018 fishing opener. Partner bait shops would provide customers with a free gallon of water that can be used to replenish bait buckets when anglers move from one lake to another. The fresh water bags would include an AIS prevention logo, prevention techniques and bag recycling information. Bait customers who use the bags will be offered a $0.50 discount on their next bait purchase, or $1 off an artificial bait purchase at the store. Bait shop owners would receive compensation of $0.50 for every gallon of water they distribute.

Award amount: $34,000

Contact: Steve Hughes, district manager, Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District; hughes.aitkinswcd(at) or (218) 927-6565

Civic Governance Project

It's well established that watercraft and equipment migrating from lake to lake are a primary factor in the spread of aquatic invasive species. Millions have been spent on prevention and control, and yet there routinely are stories about new infestations. The Citizens League and Minnesota Lakes & Rivers Advocates pilot project in Cass and Ramsey counties aims to increase coordination and collaboration between state/local governments and stakeholder groups. By taking a policy approach through coaching, work plan development and project coordination--and by linking sportsmen/women groups, lake associations, property owners and tourism and fishing professionals--the project goal is to maximize local engagement while providing a model that can be used in other regions of the state.

Award amount: $51,000

Contact: Jeff Forester, executive director, Minnesota Lakes & Rivers Advocates; jeff(at) or (612) 961-6144

Boat Traffic Analysis: A Predictive Model

As the saying goes, what gets measured gets done. A project of the Vermilion Lake Association, in partnership with the Sportsmen's Club of Lake Vermilion, the North St. Louis County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Burntside Lake Association, will put metrics in motion to increase watercraft inspection efficiency. By plotting hour-by-hour arrivals and departures on Vermilion and Burntside lakes for an entire boating season, organizers plan to implement a fast and flexible scheduling system that will increase convenience for anglers and tourists while optimizing savings and maximizing the number of watercraft inspections.

Award amount: $33,000

Contact: Jeff Lovegren, Vermilion Lake Association; lovgren.jeff(at) or (218) 290-7793

Getting to the Root

Sometimes you need to get into the weeds to solve a problem. In Carver County, where an expanding zebra mussel population is affecting Waconia and Minnewashta lakes, a control project is being launched to interrupt the spread of invaders that catch a ride on lake-based plants. The project calls for the removal of floating vegetation, hand-removal of rooted vegetation and the potential use of dock-mounted thrusters to clear floating debris from public water accesses. The object is to decrease by 50 percent the number of watercraft leaving the lake with zebra mussels and other aquatic invaders attached to plant matter. Success will be evaluated by comparing DNR inspection survey data to data collected from previous years.

Award amount: $22,000

Contact: Drew Dickhart, Carver County aquatic invasive species coordinator; adickhart(at) or (952) 361-1871

About Aquatic Invasive Species Grants

The Minnesota Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment is working to restore, protect and enhance Minnesota's wetlands, prairies, forests and habitat for fish, game and wildlife. For more information, visit the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council website.

  • Because aquatic invasive species such as microscopic juvenile zebra mussels aren't immediately apparent, project that receive grants must monitored through June 2019.
  • The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has 935 of the state's more than 11,000 lakes on its aquatic invasive species infestation list. A body of water is considered infested if it contains invasive species that could spread to other waters or if it is connected to another infested water body.
  • Ten species are currently on the invasives list. The most widespread include zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed. Invasives tend to out-compete native species for food and tend not to have natural predators, resulting in a disrupted ecosystem and decreased recreational opportunities.

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