Lake associations plan aggressive war on AIS

by Gary Albertson
Lake Vermilion is thought by many to be the most beautiful lake in Minnesota. The Vermilion Lake Association, formerly the Sportsmen’s Club of Lake Vermilion, with its many volunteers, is aggressively working to keep it that way.
They are fighting to stop the invasion of AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) from getting into this lake. They are also getting neighboring lakes such as Pelican, Shagawa and Burntside to step up efforts to stop the invasion of AIS.
Vermilion Lake Association held a dinner meeting at The Crescent Supper Club Monday night with over 20 attending, including Orr Mayor Joel Astleford, Grover Gillespie and Adam Van Tassel (a resort owner) from Orr, representatives from the Soil and Water Conservation District, and Burntside Lake Association Pres. Ward Nelson and wife Muffin, and Carrie and Tom Cusack. Cass, Itasca and St. Louis County lake groups are getting involved in this program.
It was pointed out that the State of Minnesota is watching the efforts of these groups with intense interest.
The good news according to Jeff Lovgren of the VLA is that zebra mussels are not a problem in Lake Vermilion.
They need sufficient calcium and a pH above 7.3 (slightly basic) to utilize that calcium. The pH in East Two River varied, but generally remained between 6.4 and 6.9 which is close to the historical readings in the rest of Lake Vermilion.
Zebras are moving from the top of the threat table down two notches to just under starry stonewort and hybrid water milfoil.
The main weapon used to fight the intrusion of AIS is the use of four inspection sites. The inspection sites where there are personnel on hand to inspect and clean off a boat include the Y Store near Tower and the Country Store in Cook.
For the year 2016 there were 14,755 watercraft inspections. This increased to 17,613 inspections at public accesses and 3,107 at private accesses.
The goal for 2018 is 22,000 inspections at public accesses and 5,500 at private access for a total of 27,500.
Resorts are being asked to help providing sentries. Lake Vermilion has 15 participating resorts with a target of 5,000 inspections, while Burntside has one with a target of 150, and Pelican has three with a target of 350 inspections.
Decontaminations for the Van Vac Landing on Burntside went from 100 in 2016 to 274 in 2017 and a goal of 330 in 2018. The Ely Chamber of Commerce had 32 in 2016 and 24 from May to July in 2017. Sandy Point Landing on Shagawa had 79 in 2017 from Aug. to Sept. and has a goal of 225 in 2018.
The Y Store near Tower did 135 in 2016, 162 in 2017 and has a goal of 325 in 2018. The Country Store in Cook did 105 in 2016, 55 in 2017 and has a goal of 325 in 2018 .
VLA President Terry Grosshauser of the 2,400 member association said, “The AIS challenge at Vermilion is very large. About 16,000 boats launch at Vermilion’s 40 public and private accesses each year. With serious vegetation threats like starry stonewort expanding rapidly in Minnesota lakes last year, we must do all we can to protect Lake Vermilion and its business community.”
Boat owners are asked to be sure they don’t bring these AIS into Vermilion, Pelican, Burntside, Shagawa or any other lakes, by keeping their boats clean. With the use of the inspection points, plus the help of the many involved in the Sentry program to watch out for AIS, this problem can be solved. Members of the VLA have seen many videos of what happens to other lakes when these species invade them.
Funding for AIS prevention is provided by donations to the VLA, grants from St. Louis County and the Initiative Foundation. St. Louis County Commissioners recently approved a $59,000 grant to support AIS projects during 2018. Last October, the Initiative Foundation approved two grants totaling $93,000 over two years to pilot ideas to improve watercraft inspection efficiency at Vermilion’s public accesses and to increase boat inspections and early-detection activities at lake businesses.
Jeff Lovgren added, “Strong partnerships make this difficult and complex task possible. We are pleased with the close working relationship that has developed among our lake association, the North St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District, the Burntside Lake Association, the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, and the business community around Lake Vermilion.”
Boaters are asked before they take a trip with their boat to inspect and clean it, drain water from the bilge, live wells, motor, bait wells and ballast tanks, keep the drain plug out of the boat and water draining devices open while transporting watercraft, and dispose of all unwanted bait in the trash.
In Lake Vermilion, the risk of the introduction of starry stonewort and hybrid and Eurasian watermilfoil is very high, spiny waterfleas were found in Big Bay in 2015, curly-leaf pondweed was present in three small areas, and rusty crayfish are present in the east basin and west to Niles Bay.