In the battle against aquatic invasive species, key weapons include research, inspections & early detection

Angie Hong - Washington Conservation District

Last month, the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center announced nine new research projects scheduled to begin this summer. 

Included in the list are two projects aimed at controlling common carp — one to develop carp removal strategies that utilize social behaviors and one to explore a herpesvirus that could act as a potential biocontrol for the fish. 

The others are to detect and map zebra mussel populations using multibeam sonar; an analysis of spiny waterflea invasions in the state; studies to examine the relationships between invasive species and native fish and vegetation; development and testing of new coatings to prevent zebra mussels from adhering; a genetic analysis to improve hybrid and Eurasian watermilfoil treatment efforts; and an evaluation of Eurasian watermilfoil’s impacts on property values. 

Minnesota’s efforts to limit the spread of aquatic invasives have been steadily accelerating over the past ten years. The research center was founded in 2012 with funding from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund — proceeds from the Minnesota State Lottery — and the Clean Water Fund, created by the 2008 Land and Water Legacy constitutional amendment. 

Since 2014, the Minnesota Legislature has also set aside $10 million per year to give to counties for aquatic invasive species prevention efforts. In addition, the state Department of Natural resources operates a $2 million per year invasive species program that coordinates statewide efforts, maintains a list of infested waters, establishes rules to prevent the spread of the species, conducts watercraft inspections, and supports local education, prevention and control efforts. 


Area efforts

In Washington County, aquatic invasive species funding has been used to hire watercraft inspectors, conduct education activities and implement an early detection program. Funding is also given to lake associations to manage existing infestations. 

Currently, 7% of the lakes in Minnesota are infested by at least one aquatic invasive species. The most common local invasives include curlyleaf pondweed, common carp, Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels. Other invasive species found elsewhere in Minnesota, but yet to be seen in Washington County, include spiny waterflea and starry stonewort. These infestations can wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems and affect water recreation and local business. 

In the battle against aquatic invasive species, research, watercraft inspections and early detection programs have proven to be key weapons. Washington County currently uses approximately half of its $140,000 in annual funding to conduct watercraft inspections at public launches to ensure that boaters are following state rules requiring them to clean watercrafts and trailers, drain water and dispose of unused bait in the trash. 

So far this summer, Washington Conservation District’s watercraft inspectors have intercepted boats at Big Marine Lake, Lake Demontreville, Clear Lake and Square Lake that were attempting to launch with zebra mussels attached. Without a local inspections program in place these incidents could have easily resulted in four new infestations. 

In addition to watercraft inspections, Washington County also uses a portion of its funds to conduct in-lake monitoring to identify and potentially treat new aquatic invasive species infestations before they spread. 

This May, Washington Conservation District staff found six juvenile zebra mussels underneath a dock in Bone Lake in Scandia. Through the county’s rapid response program, the Washington Conservation District, the Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District and the DNR were able to work together to close the public launch and treat 0.57 acres surrounding the landing with EarthTec QZ, a copper-based pesticide used to kill zebra mussels. 

The project was the ninth such chemical treatment the Minnesota DNR has permitted since creating a zebra mussel pilot treatment program in 2011. Monitoring conducted next year will help to determine if the effort was successful. 


See it yourself

The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center will showcase several of its latest research projects at an event on Wednesday, Sept. 18, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the University of Minnesota-St. Paul campus in the Continuing Education and Conference Center, 1890 Buford Ave. 

The event will provide the public with an opportunity to tour the aquatic invasive species lab, learn about new research and talk with staff working at the center. Tickets are $40 and available at 

Meanwhile, state and local partners agree on one thing: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The single most important thing Minnesotans can do to protect the 93% of lakes, rivers and streams that are still aquatic invasive species-free is to thoroughly clean, drain and dry all boats, docks, lifts, trailers, jet skis and hunting equipment before they go into the water. Do your part to help protect our Minnesota waters.  

Learn more about aquatic invasive species at More about the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center ccan be found at


—Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water — — which includes Brown’s Creek, Carnelian Marine-St. Croix, Comfort Lake-Forest Lake, Middle St. Croix, Ramsey Washington-Metro, Rice Creek, South Washington and Valley Branch Watersheds, Cottage Grove, Dellwood, Forest Lake, Grant, Hugo, Lake Elmo, Newport, Oak Park Heights, Oakdale, Stillwater, St. Paul Park, West Lakeland, Willernie and Woodbury, Washington County, and the Washington Conservation District. Contact her at 651-330-8220 ext. 35 or at

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