The St. Louis County Board approved the distribution of $654,530 of state funds earlier this week for eight projects aimed at preventing the introduction and limiting the spread of aquatic invasive species in lakes and rivers in St. Louis County.

Commissioners unanimously approved the list of projects during their meeting Tuesday in Virginia. In 2020, the county distributed $661,962 in grants, and $670,000 the year before that.

Commissioner Paul McDonald, of Ely, noted the expansion into resort landings over the past few years, saying the county was trying to do its best to provide inspection and decontamination efforts at some of its most widely used locations.

Paul McDonald
Paul McDonald

"Using resort landings is another crucial piece to keeping our waters as clean as we possibly can, and also to expand service in the last few years to Kabetogama, Crane and Pelican lakes," McDonald told the board.

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Commissioner Keith Nelson, of Virginia, reminded the board that the money was county money being recouped through the state program, saying it was the area's licensed anglers and boat license purchasers who were paying into the program and seeing their dollars reinvested locally.

"It is only fitting the (Department of Natural Resources) is sending this money back to do what is truly a model here in the state of Minnesota for what's being done to protect our water," Nelson said.

Duluth Commissioner Richard Jewell commended lake associations and volunteers who operate and implement a good share of the programming.

"Those are human hours put into making something happen," Jewell said. "Forever, AIS have really been a challenge, and this gives us an opportunity to make a difference locally."

The approved projects and funding for 2021 include:

  • $398,600 to the North St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District to manage watercraft inspections, decontaminations and public education on Bear Island, Birch, Burntside, Crane, Ely, Gilbert-Pit, Johnson, Kabetogama, One Pine, Pelican, Shagawa and Vermilion lakes.
  • $98,000 to Wildlife Forever for marketing efforts for their Clean Drain Dry Initiative campaign aimed at public awareness, education and behavioral change.
  • $42,191 to Vermilion Lake Association for continued watercraft inspections and cleaning; public awareness and education; habitat evaluation and threat assessment; early detection and response efforts; and partnership development.
  • $30,000 to Canosia Township for watercraft inspections and public education on Pike Lake and Caribou Lake.
  • $24,450 to the University of Minnesota Sea Grant for a pilot project to install CD3 hub stations at four public water accesses (St. Louis River Boy Scout and Munger landings, Island Lake Abbott Road Landing, and Pike Lake Public Access) to enable boaters to self-inspect their own watercraft.
  • $22,164 to Grand Lake Township for watercraft inspections on Caribou Lake.
  • $20,000 to Community Action Duluth for continued eradication, control, mapping, and monitoring of non-native phragmites in the St. Louis River Estuary.
  • $19,125 to Burntside Lake Association for continued training of boat inspectors; promote the use of boat cleaning stations; improve public awareness and education about AIS; build early detection capabilities; and partnership development.

The amount of funding received from the state is based on a formula that factors each county’s share of watercraft trailer launches and watercraft trailer parking spaces. Of Minnesota's 87 counties, St. Louis County has the second-highest number of watercraft trailer launches (170) and the highest number of watercraft trailer parking spaces (1,429).

Aquatic invasive species disrupt the health of water bodies and pose myriad threats to natural, cultural and recreational resources of the region, the county said. Key AIS species of concern in the St. Louis County include zebra and quagga mussels; starry stonewort; the New Zealand mudsnail; viral hemorrhagic septicemia; round and tubenose gobies; Eurasian ruffe; faucet snail; mystery snail; spiny water flea; Eurasian watermilfoil; and rusty crayfish.

More information about the county's AIS prevention plan and work that's been done to date is available at stlouiscountymn.gov/AIS.