Boaters who trailer their yachts, bass boats or Jet Skis to Pike Lake near Duluth will notice a free cleaning station that might remind them of the local car wash.
The new $20,000 unit sits along the boat ramp and includes a wet/dry vacuum, high-pressure air hose, scrub brushes and other devices to help boaters clean their boats and trailers.
There's even a special tool to help you dislodge that pesky boat plug before you drive away, as required by state law.
It's not that Canosia Township, which sponsors the station, is especially a neat freak about watercraft. The real point is to get people to spend a little more time up close with the innards of their boats and trailers, the nooks and crannies where aquatic invasive species might be hiding.
By vacuuming out your boat (no coins required) you might also be more likely to make sure your livewell, bilge and baitwell are clean and dry - Clean, Drain Dry is the national theme of the aquatic invasive-species battle.
Those few extra minutes with your boat and trailer might help prevent you from unwittingly moving zebra mussels, spiny water fleas or eurasian water milfoil weeds from one lake to another.
There already have been invasive-species inspectors stationed at the landing, which is owned by the township, to remind people to comply with state laws about not moving water, fish or bait from one lake or river to another.
"The cleaning station is another tool to help people comply. It gets them thinking about it. It's partly an educational effort, too," said Michael Scharenbroich, who coordinates St. Louis County's aquatic invasive-species grant program.
The cleaning station has been up and running for several days. Officials have scheduled a grand opening event today at the Pike Lake boat landing.
The cleaning station doesn't go as far as a hot-water, high-pressure "decontamination" units that you might see on other lakes, operated by trained technicians, including Burntside and Vermilion in northern St. Louis County. But it's a low-cost option that's expected to have some impact, said Doug Jensen, aquatic invasive-species expert for Minnesota Sea Grant.
"It provides a tool intended to remove AIS, not necessarily kill AIS," Jensen said. "CD3 provides another option for day-use boaters to remove AIS before leaving Pike Lake, which is infested with zebra mussels."
The Pike Lake cleaning station is the first in northern Minnesota. The stations are made by St. Paul-based CD3 (clean, drain, dry and dispose) General Benefit Corp. that formed early in 2016. The company has one other unit in place, on Bryant Lake in Eden Prairie. Two more are planned for Lake Minnetonka west of Minneapolis.
"The county AIS managers were telling us that people needed tools to help them at the boat landings. ... So that's what got us looking at different designs that would work, that would be simple but still get physical removal of those invasive species," said Ed Rudberg, CEO of CD3. "We're thinking this is a great made-in-Minnesota solution to a big problem. We've had interest from all over North America on this."
Canosia Township was one of several local governments, lake associations and nonprofit groups that received state grants through St. Louis County in the ongoing state program.
Counties have been awash in invasive-species cash since the 2014 Minnesota Legislature set aside $10 million to combat the spread of invasive species. It was the first such money for counties to get involved in what had been a state Department of Natural Resources effort to that point. Subsequent legislatures have continued to fund the program.
Since 2014 St. Louis County alone has doled out some $2.4 million in state money to help battle invasive species.
St. Louis County officials contracted with the University of Minnesota's Duluth-based Sea Grant program to develop an invasive-species plan and develop a method for groups to apply for the cash.
The state is awarding the money based on the number of public landings and trailer-parking spaces each county has. Of 87 counties, St. Louis County has the second-highest number of boat launch sites at 166 and the highest number of watercraft trailer parking spaces at 1,173.
It's not just boats but also docks that are moved as well as trailers, diving equipment, fishing tackle and even waders that can carry unwanted species from lake to lake. Boats that have remained in an infested lake or river for 24 hours or more are the highest risk to move invaders. Some types of sailboats, pontoon boats and wake boats are especially troublesome because large areas that hold water are inaccessible, almost impossible to clean and dry.
Despite the spread, the ongoing effort to convince people to take appropriate steps is working. Despite having more than 10,000 lakes and tens of thousands of boats moving between lakes and rivers in Minnesota - the state has 800,000 registered watercraft, not including visitors from other states - only 2 percent of all waterways in the state are infested with zebra mussels. Only 1 percent have spiny water fleas. About 5 percent have Eurasan water milofil. Officials want boaters to know that it's not inevitable that all lakes and rivers will be infested, at least not anytime soon.
For more information on the cleaning stations go to www.cd3station.com.