Thursday, February 5, 2015


WATERWORKS by Gordon Prickett for the 2/4/2015 Aitkin Independent Age

Reports across the county are telling of a destructive ice pack on large lakes. Early cold temperatures have built thick ice. Absence of snow cover has led the exposed ice to expand and contract forcefully. Ice ridges and gaps are the result. Nothing can resist the advancing ice on a shoreline. When the thaw comes many repairs will be needed. Caution is needed now by skiers and snowmobilers. The ice is thick in many places, but it is moving - and it is far from level or smooth.


Over 400 attendees met at the Rivers Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud on January 20 and 21, to learn about the latest efforts in the state to combat Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in our waters. Since July 2014 state funds appropriated by the legislature have been flowing into Minnesota counties based on a formula that takes into account how many parking spaces are available at public access facilities. In Aitkin County the commissioners have appointed an AIS Committee to distribute these funds with an emphasis on local lake projects, education, prevention, inspection, and treatment where infestation occurs.

For several years the DNR has used billboards and signs and trained volunteers to persuade boat owners to clean, drain, and dry their boats and trailers, in order to “Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!” Now with millions of new AIS dollars each year the campaign is being stepped up. In the Aitkin Lakes Area decontamination equipment will be purchased and deployed near the most-used accesses, where the threat from boats that come out of infested waters is the greatest.

There is a long list of these aquatic invaders, but clearly the most to be feared are Zebra Mussels. They are small shells that attach to native mussels, plants, watercraft, and lake equipment. They cut the feet of swimmers and dogs, clog water intakes, and damage ecosystems by reducing food for young fish. Their microscopic larvae can be moved in bait buckets, livewells, and other areas of boats and trailers, if not drained. The greatest emphasis in the AIS campaign is placed on Zebra Mussels. This species is widespread in Mille Lacs Lake.

Other dangerous species to be identified are Eurasian Watermilfoil, Curly-leaf Pondweed, Spiny Waterfleas, and Round Gobies (a bottom-dwelling fish). The invasive Silver and Big-head Carp from Asia have not traveled above the lock and dam in Minneapolis.

For a thorough look at these invaders and to see demonstrations of decontamination equipment don’t miss the Rivers and Lakes Fair at Aitkin High School on Saturday, June 20th.