Watercraft inspections to benefit lakes with $93,000 in grants

Funding support of $33,000 from the Initiative Foundation, will aid in a two-year project to further improve the efficiency of boat inspection work at 17 Lake Vermilion and 5 Burntside Lake public accesses.
Watercraft inspections at Vermilion and Burntside are conducted by North St Louis Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in partnership with the Vermilion Lake Association and the Burntside Lake Association. All three organizations are involved in this pilot project.
“While boat inspections are the most effective means we have to prevent new AIS infestations, they are also labor intensive and our most expensive AIS undertaking,” said Jeff Lovgren, AIS program leader at Lake Vermilion. “Our partnership has an obligation to become even more efficient every year, and we’re pleased to receive a grant to pilot some innovative ideas to make that happen.”
“The key to inspection efficiency is to deploy our inspectors at the busiest public accesses at the busiest times of the day for the entire boating season,” said Anita Provinzino, North St Louis SWCD administrator.
“To do that, we need an accurate model to predict arrivals and exits at public accesses,” observed Carrie Ohly-Cusack, Burntside AIS task force leader. “During the pilot project, we will gather data using magnetic traffic sensors, access cameras, and cameras overlooking the access parking lots at both lakes to supplement data from our inspectors.”
The traffic data at Burntside and Vermilion will be merged with information about fishing conditions, weather and wind direction, and the effect of fishing opener, weekends, and holidays to develop a predictive model. The intention is to use the model to predict boat traffic patterns and incorporate those into a flexible, fast-reaction staffing system.
During the second year of the project, the predictive traffic model will be tested at a third nearby lake with multiple public accesses before being shared more widely across Minnesota.
“Our lake association has worked with North St Louis SWCD and Burntside Lake Association for several years as we battle AIS together,” said Terry Grosshauser, VLA president. “This $60,000 grant from the Initiative Foundation will allow us to better support lake businesses at Vermilion and Burntside.”
In 2017, North St Louis SWCD and Vermilion Lake Association began working with Vermilion’s resorts, campgrounds and marinas with private accesses to expand boat inspections and vegetation early detection.
“We found the business owners to be very committed to AIS prevention and eager to work with us,” said Emily Nelson, a DNR-trained AIS Detector and inspection supervisor at North St Louis SWCD. “And we learned a lot about how to make the program even better in 2018. This funding will help us do that.”
A key principle within the AIS prevention community is sharing ideas with others.
“Everything learned at Vermilion will be applied to Burntside,” emphasized Ward Nelson, BLA president. “But now, through this multi-county project, AIS teams in Cass and Itasca will also benefit from our work. And we will more quickly benefit from theirs.”
“Developing innovative methods to apply what works in one region to other regions is a key objective of this project,” added Jeff Lovgren, VLA AIS program leader. “We anticipate that will not be easy. Vermilion, for example, has 23 private accesses concentrated on one lake. On the other hand, Itasca County has over 100 resorts and lodges spread widely over many lakes and a large geographic area.” Ely Echo 11/4/2017