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Effort to contain ANS

Zebra mussels in state waters

Kim Fundingsland/MDN ANS cleaning stations have been positioned at three locations in the state for use this watercraft season, including this ANS station at Lake Metigoshe State Park. Others are located on the Red River in Grand Forks and at Lake Ashtabula.

“It’s just a challenge that every state agency faces,” said Ben Holen, Aquatic Nuisance Species coordinator, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, stationed in Jamestown. “Minnesota has a great program and they still have more ANS locations every year.”

Aquatic Nuisance Species, or ANS, change and disrupt bodies of water by altering the ecological make-up of a system. Zebra mussels, for example, filter water so efficiently that a lake with somewhat cloudy water will become clear from top to bottom. That means an entirely different growing environment for plants, fish, and anything else living in the system.

“In North Dakota we have a proven formula for growing fish, more so than almost anywhere in the country,” stated Holen. “We’re very lucky that we have the productive systems that we have. ANS could disrupt that growth.”

ANS that have invaded state waters include zebra mussels, which have quickly flourished in the Red River, Lake LaMoure and the James River, and Lake Ashtabula. Holen says further spread of the tiny mussels brings a number of challenges.

“In some areas it’s drastic with 2-3 inches of mussels on Ashtabula docks and lifts, all sorts of stuff,” said Holen. “They get in the water intake on a boat. They cut people’s feet. It’s tough to predict what the effects biologically would be. The risk is never zero, but we can greatly reduce the risk.”

One new way to reduce the risk is the acquisition of three ANS cleaning stations for use this summer. They have already been positioned at Lake Metigoshe, Lake Ashtabula, and on the Red River at Grand Forks.

“They are solar powered. Each one has a blower and a Shop Vac on it,” said Chris Lee, Lake Metigoshe State Park interim manager. “They have a scrub brush and a tool to grab underneath the trailer. It’s a prevention measure.”

The ANS cleaning station at Lake Metigoshe State Park is conveniently located just a few yards above the park’s boat ramp. To date, the only ANS identified in Lake Metigoshe is curlyleaf pondweed. The site was chosen for an ANS cleaning station for that reason and because of high activity on the shoreline and on the water.

“That lake gets a lot of recreational use. There’s lots of docks and lifts and people living on the shorelines. It all increases the risk of future introductions of ANS,” said Holen. “We encourage watercraft users to remove vegetation to prevent spreading ANS, to reduce that biological risk.”

In addition to the cleaning station at Lake Metigoshe, Holen says Game and Fish is placing an emphasis on increasing watercraft inspections throughout the western part of North Dakota this year, working in tune with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to promote “Clean, Drain and Dry”.

“We’ll have five additional people doing inspections on the Missouri River and Lake Sakakawea this summer,” stated Holen. “Over the next couple of years we’ll be increasing the number.”

One of the most dreaded of ANS, zebra mussels, have thus far been found only in the eastern half of the state. Recently, said Holen, there were reports of zebra mussels found in Devils Lake. Fortunately, no zebra mussels were discovered.

“We went out and investigated it. A guy thought he had found them,” remarked Holen. “It turned out to be gammarus shrimp all clustered together.”

Nevertheless, Devils Lake remains a body of water considered a likely place for emergence of unwanted ANS because of its high use and proximity to other waters where ANS are present.

“It’s a tough challenge. Education is definitely the main thing,” stated Holen. “We stress education because you can’t have someone on the boat ramps 24/7. It comes down to individual people caring about their water resource.”

Holen added that Game and Fish is interested in hiring people now for watercraft inspection jobs this summer.

“They can contact me,” said Holen. “It’s good seasonal work for anyone, good for college kids too.”

Holen can be reached at the Game and Fish Jamestown office at 253-6480.

ANS Regulations

All aquatic vegetation must be removed from boats, personal watercraft, trailers, and fishing and hunting equipment such as fishing poles, bait buckets, lures, duck decoys, and waders before leaving a body of water. That means “vegetation free” when transporting watercraft and/or equipment away from a boat ramp, landing area or shoreline.

Live aquatic bait or aquatic vegetation may not be transported into North Dakota.

All water must be drained from boats and other watercraft, including bilges, livewells, baitwells and motors before leaving a water body.

All drain plugs that may hold back water must be removed, and water draining devices must be open, on all watercraft and recreational, commercial, and construction equipment bilges and confined spaces, during any out-of-water transport of same.

Anglers may not transport live bait in water away from any Class I ANS infested water, currently Lake LaMoure, Cottonwood Creek downstream from Lake LaMoure, the James River in Dickey County, Lake Ashtabula, the Sheyenne River from Lake Ashtabula downstream to the Red River and the Red River. All water must be drained from bait buckets as anglers leave the shore, or remove their boat from the water. Anglers must properly dispose of unused bait away from the river, as dumping bait in the water or on shore is illegal. In all other waters not infested with Class I ANS species, anglers can transport live bait in water in containers of five gallons or less in volume.

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