Aquatic invasive species and you
The following guest commentary was written by Jennifer DeMoss, Director of Communications at the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council.
On a cool fall morning, a Chevy Silverado towing an unusually shaped trailer looms into the boat launch parking area. There is no boat behind the truck. Instead, there are amenities designed to improve water quality and help boaters enjoy their time on the lakes of northern Michigan. Atop the bright blue trailer are balanced two opaque white plastic containers, one filled with hot water, with a motor in a black metal box perched behind them. The driver pulls into the parking lot, and she and her passenger roll a large rubber mat across the parking lot. As more trucks and trailers enter the parking lot, the couple ask them to park their boats on the mat. They clean the boats with a jet of hot water and then send the boaters and fishermen to enjoy their day on the lake. Boats leaving the water receive the same treatment, all to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) from one lake to another. This is the Watershed Council Mobile Boat Wash Station, happily dubbed MOBO by our staff.
MOBO was a huge success this year, in part thanks to grants from the Charlevoix County Community Foundation and the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation which funded the new truck that took the station to our entire area. on duty. The Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program and the US Forest Service were also generous sponsors of the program. Our staff and interns, with the help of volunteers and lake associations, washed boats on 10 lakes in our service area and a few more beyond. We washed 279 boats, including 153 kayaks at this year’s Paddle Antrim festival. We interacted with more than 800 boaters and anglers, distributing material on the dangers of aquatic invasive species, which can supplant native species and cause enormous economic and ecological damage. We’ve washed over 400% more boats this year than last year, and we’re proud of our work to keep our lakes healthy.
Our work to prevent the spread of AIS depends on the people who use local waterways. It turns out that it’s quite crowded. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported that in 2018 Michigan was home to approximately 4 million boaters. With the pandemic pushing people into outdoor recreation, boat dealerships are regularly running out of supplies. Last year, 21,024 residents and 202,517 non-residents received fishing licenses in Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Antrim and Emmet counties. During our MOBO events, we only washed a small part of the boats that touched the water this summer.
This is not to say that the efforts of the Watershed Council were wasted. We are not able to wash all the boats and education is an integral part of our mission. Every boater who learns to clean, drain and dry his boat is a triumph. Anytime someone acts on the law to remove aquatic species before leaving a boat launch, we are grateful. Eliminating the growing threat of AIS must happen even after our bright blue MOBO trailer has left the field, and for good reason.
There is a huge investment in state-level aquatic recreation that AIS threatens to decimate. MNR estimates the value of state sponsored boating access sites to be over $ 1,000,000,000. Invasive aquatic species, such as Eurasian Watermilfoil that cover lake bottoms and become entangled in boat propellers, threaten boating and other water recreation. The thick carpets of this invasive water milfoil kill native vegetation that fish depend on for food. And it’s just an invasive species. A study by the Anderson Economic Group estimated that the cost of controlling AIS in the Great Lakes region exceeds $ 100,000,000 per year. Aquatic invasive species affect tourism, power plant water intakes, industrial shipping, riparian owners, etc. Citizens bear the burden in the form of increased costs for water and energy. Tax revenues are used to help the devastation that AIS causes to individuals and businesses.
This is why the invasive species that we remove from boats with MOBO are more than just a Watershed Council problem. They threaten our livelihoods, our recreational opportunities and our wallets. We need the help of all boaters, anglers and other recreationists to keep our waters healthy. Clean, drain and dry your boats and trailers to prevent the spread of AIS. Do not throw your bait into a lake or stream. Help us protect what you love, from your favorite pool to your bank account.
For more questions about AIS or our mobile boat washing station, contact the Watershed Council at [email protected] or (231) 347-1181. Visit www.watershedcouncil.org/aquatic-invasive-species for more information on AIS.