Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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AIS fines double; citation rate ‘unacceptably high’

St. Paul – In a summer that’s already seen what officials say is an unacceptably high violation rate of invasive species laws, people who break those laws now will face stiffer penalties.

As part of a suite of new laws that went into effect July 1, civil fines for people who violate the state’s invasive species laws have doubled.

Lawmakers approved the stiffer penalties during this year’s legislative session.

“The larger fines should help people realize this is a serious problem, and we need everyone to do their part to prevent the spread of AIS,” said Maj. Phil Meier, operations manager for the DNR Enforcement Division.

Under the new law, the fine for failing to remove a drain plug from a boat before transporting it is $100, up from $50. And the fine for unlawfully possessing and transporting prohibited AIS increased from $250 to $500.

As part of its beefed-up AIS enforcement effort, the DNR will have about 140 watercraft inspectors stationed around the state. It also will have 23 decontamination units at public accesses, primarily at high-use, infested lakes.

Despite all of the attention around AIS, state conservation officers still are encountering a 20-percent violation rate, Meier said.

That’s way too high, he said.

“Once an invasive species is in a lake, it’s extremely hard to eradicate it,” Meier said. “And it can potentially change that lake forever.”

Check stations

Though some county attorneys have questioned the DNR’s plans to conduct check stations away from public accesses, the agency plans to move ahead with them.

“In our mind, (the concern) is not really holding anything up,” Meier said. “It’s new to our division. We’re getting the bugs worked out to make sure we have everything in place when we do the full-blown ones.”

If county attorneys have issues, the DNR will work with them, he said.

“They are a lot different than the DWI road checks,” Meier said. “The Legislature has given us the authority. We plan to proceed with that endeavor.”

Other new AIS laws

Water-related equipment, with the exception of boats and other watercraft, that is removed from one water body may not be placed in another water body for at least 21 days. Such equipment includes things like boat lifts, docks, and swimming rafts.

The drying period is designed to kill any invasives that might be attached.

According to the DNR, zebra mussels were introduced into two new water bodies  last year after such equipment was moved from one lake to another.

The other new law expands the definition of lake service providers, which are required to undergo invasive species training. Now, boat clubs, yacht clubs, marinas, and similar organizations are considered lake service providers.

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