Conservation Minnesota

Controlling Aquatic Invasives

The Star Tribune article last weekend about the dramatic increase of zebra mussels in Lake Mille Lacs was highly disconcerting.  After first being discovered in the lake in 2005, and first counted in 2009 at four zebra mussels per square foot, this year DNR researchers have found the numbers to have risen to 1,000 per square foot.

Reported by Doug Smith, DNR large lake specialist Tom Jones described rocky parts of Mille Lacs as “…just a carpet of zebra mussels.” Reports are that peak densities of mussels can reach 10,000 per square foot before they begin to decline.

If water clarity in the lake increases, due to zebra mussels consuming algae and filtering water, it could hurt Mille Lacs iconic walleye fishery, but that hasn’t happened yet.  And any affect on the walleye resource could certainly impact popular tourism in the area.  Swimmers can easily slice their hands or feet on the mussel shells.

So new laws from the legislature this past session, and increased enforcement and monitoring by our DNR on aquatic invasives are very important to attempt to halt the spread.  We can hope that the new aquatic invasives lab at the University of Minnesota, headed up by Professor Peter Sorenson, will prove to be a key effort in controlling zebra mussels and other invasives.

The Legislative Citizen-Committee on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) recently recommended that almost $9 million more dollars be appropriated next year for the new U of M aquatic invasives research lab.

It is somewhat ironic that one of the goals of the Federal Clean Water Act of 1972 was to make our nation’s waters “fishable and swimmable” where they had been polluted.  And, although we have made significant progress in treating point and nonpoint pollution sources to do so, we did not realize then the increasing threat of aquatic invasives to hamper this goal’s possibilities.

We citizens need to do our part to help as much as possible.  So please be extra vigilant when moving your boat to various waterways, and also removing your docks when the boating season ends.  Crush those aquatic invasives!

About John Helland

John Helland

John Helland is a history graduate of the University of Minnesota. He served as the nonpartisan legislative research analyst for the Minnesota House of Representatives after graduation. He worked extensively on environment and natural resources legislation and issues, and was the primary nonpartisan research staffer for the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committees from 1971 to 2008.

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