Although Wright County no longer has a regional boat
inspection program to combat Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), it doesn’t mean
the county won’t have a big presence over the summer months.
This week, Wright County received $227,249 from the
State of Minnesota to help cover operating costs for 2020. The Wright Soil
& Water Conservation District (WSWCD) is delegated to administer the allocation.
The funding is used for ramp/boat inspections, decontamination, education and the
treatment of infected lakes.
In 2014, the Minnesota State Legislature began
allocating $10 million annually to counties to fight the spread of AIS. Of that
total, $5 million is allocated based on the number of lake accesses in a county
and $5 million is allocated based upon the parking spaces at those accesses.
Based on that formula, Wright County’s allocation ranked 13th out of
87 counties in Minnesota and represents 2.3 percent of the total 2020 allotment.
Until April of this year, Wright County was participating
in an AIS pilot project that began on three lakes (Sylvia, Pleasant and John)
and looked to expand to include six more lakes in 2019. However, the entire
program was contingent on the approval of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR rejected the proposal to expand the program, citing a lack of enough quantifiable
data having been collected to justify expanding the program further. Due to the
wording of the ordinance governing the project, the ordinance was repealed and
the Wright Regional Inspection Program was shut down.
That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t going to
be an AIS program in Wright County in 2020.
“We’re still going to be doing a lot of the same
things we did with the program, but it’s just back to the status quo from
before we started the project,” said Alicia O’Hare, a water management
specialist with WSWCD. “We will still have our decontamination unit at 1300 Business
Boulevard in Annandale that is operated seven days a week in the summer for
eight to 10 hours a day. We will also be doing inspections on the 28 ramps that
we have patrols on.”
The boat launch inspection program runs throughout the
summer with as many as 10 inspectors working on the busiest times of season, such
as the fishing opener, Memorial Day weekend and the Fourth of July holiday. The
lake accesses that are patrolled are each assigned a specific number of hours based
upon the amount of boat traffic each lake gets. If, for example, a lake is
assigned 400 patrol hours during the summer, 200 of those hours are assigned
for weekdays and 200 for weekends.
Wright County no longer is the focus of the rest of
the state as the first county to have a regional boat inspection program, but
it doesn’t mean that the fight against AIS is over. It is just continuing in a