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Preventing spread of ANS falls on water users

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has a diverse marketing campaign on preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species.

Wash Station
This building will house washers to spray watercraft to help prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species. This building is located south of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department building and east of the paved road going through the Jamestown Reservoir.
Masaki Ova / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – Preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species falls on anybody who uses or recreates in the water for commercial, industrial or recreational activities, said Ben Holen, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for the department.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s No. 1 priority is educating water users on how to prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species , he said.

“If you have an educated water user group out there, they know the right things to do at boat ramps or when recreating our waters so they are not accidentally spreading (aquatic nuisance) species,” Holen said.

Holen said the department has a diverse marketing campaign – including the use of billboards, social media and radio, television and digital ads – on preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species. He said the department also partnered with Midco, which has been playing public service announcements about aquatic nuisance species during sporting events and other shows.

Aquatic nuisance species are organisms that disrupt the ecological stability of infested inland, estuarine or marine waters, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Beyond doing ecological damage, the infestation may impair the recreational, commercial and agricultural uses of the water body, the website says.

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There are three different classifications of aquatic nuisance species in North Dakota that range from prohibited (class I) to listed (class III), the website says. Prohibited (class I) means aquatic nuisance species are highly invasive but are limited or nonexistent in North Dakota. Regulated (class II) means aquatic nuisance species that are established in North Dakota, may have limited commercial use, and management options are difficult or nonexistent. Listed (class III) means aquatic nuisance species that are established may be widespread or have viable management options.

Holen said there are eight aquatic nuisance species in North Dakota: common carp, curly leaf pondweed, grass carp, silver carp, bighead carp, zebra mussels, Eurasian water milfoil and flowering rush.

“North Dakota is pretty fortunate in that we don’t have a ton of aquatic nuisance species,” he said.

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Beyond educating water users about aquatic nuisance species, Holen said the Game and Fish Department also hires 12 to 15 watercraft inspectors each year who are stationed at boat ramps that have high recreational use. At larger lakes such as Devils Lake, Jamestown Reservoir and Lake Sakakawea, the inspectors check boats before they launch to make sure they don’t have any aquatic nuisance species attached to them, that all residual water is out of them and to ensure there is no vegetation that could get introduced into the lakes.

“At some of our zebra mussel infested water bodies like (Lake) Ashtabula and Twin Lake, during the summertime on the weekend there is usually always an inspector there checking boats coming off making sure they don’t have any zebra mussels or curly pondweed or anything and they are not spreading those around,” he said.

If inspectors find a boat with aquatic nuisance species on it, the boat will be decontaminated with hot water to kill any aquatic nuisance species, he said.

The Game and Fish Department’s enforcement staff also runs dedicated roadside checks for aquatic nuisance species throughout the summer.

“They are checking boats traveling westbound from eastern waters that usually have a higher prevalence of having aquatic nuisance species,” Holen said. He said staff are set up during the Fourth of July to check boats coming into the state for aquatic nuisance species on their boats or other violations.

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How long aquatic nuisance species can live on a boat depends on the weather conditions, he said. For example, zebra mussels can live up to 28 days out of water if the weather conditions are 40 degrees and super humid.

Because how long aquatic nuisance species live is dependent on the weather conditions, it is important for water users to inspect their watercrafts, take off any vegetation and drain any residual water, Holen said

He said there are a wide variety of aquatic nuisance species violations but the main one issued in the state is related to having water in the live well. He said all plugs for the live well need to be out during transport.

“The reason for that is we want to make sure that all residual water is out of the boats because you might look at your live well or other areas and say, ‘It’s only water,’ but within that water there could definitely be microscopic organisms like zebra mussel veligers that you are not seeing that you accidentally transfer to a lake when you go out to a different lake the next time out,” he said.

An aquatic nuisance species violation can also include having vegetation on a watercraft. Holen said a violation could be as severe as having a watercraft being encrusted with zebra mussels and going to a different lake.

Wash stations

The Game and Fish Department, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Stutsman County have partnered to install watercraft-washing stations at Jamestown Reservoir. The watercraft-washing stations are 10-by-10-foot buildings that house the washers.

Karl Bergh, Stutsman County park superintendent, said the Game and Fish Department paid for part of the utilities and the Bureau of Reclamation paid for the equipment and some of the utilities for the washing stations. He said Stutsman County’s share is providing the labor to maintain the washing stations.

Holen said the boat-washing stations will probably spray medium-hot water for safety concerns.

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“It’s not a true deep contamination because in order for it to be a true decontamination, the water would have to be 140 degrees-plus but it’s just another tool out there that boaters can use to reduce the risk of potentially spreading some organisms accidentally on their boat,” he said.

He said many water users like the wash stations because they can wash off any vegetation and mud quickly during the summertime.

Holen said a public wash station is available for use at Lake LaMoure, which is infested with zebra mussels. He said several CD3s – waterless cleaning devices – are installed around the state that have air hoses, vacuums and grabber tools that users can use to clean and dry watercraft.

The department is also looking to use some new technology.

“We have virtual inspectors at some locations,” Holen said. “We have something called an eyelet, which basically performs a visual inspection. It talks to the boater, sends up that inspection to the Cloud and they can be reviewed by a team of reviewers to see if any violations were committed.”

Who is responsible for preventing the spread?

Some of the burden falls on water users to prevent the spread aquatic nuisance species, Holen said. It can also fall on commercial and industrial users and even pet owners with aquariums.

“Because after putting in water pipelines, people that are using heavy equipment in water, if they haven’t properly cleaned their gear beforehand, they could potentially spread unwanted species,” he said. “ … If a pet owner releases an aquarium into the water, they could potentially be introducing goldfish to areas that they are not supposed to be or they could have some kind of aquatic vegetation in there like Eurasian watermilfoil that causes some serious problems here in our waters.”

Holen said plants like Eurasian watermilfoil or Brazilian elodea are common aquarium plants that have been traced to starting new populations of aquatic nuisance species caused by aquarium dumping.

“Responsible pet ownership does protect our waters here in North Dakota because we do see goldfish dumps in areas of the Red River and/or Sheyenne (River) in the Fargo area and even in some of the local ponds there in those Fargo-Moorhead areas,” he said.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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