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MADISON — For waterfront property owners, pulling out their dock is as much a part of autumn as fall colors and first frosts. It’s a chore that probably isn’t as much fun as putting the dock in was last spring but it offers waterfront landowners an opportunity to help in efforts to identify presence of aquatic invasive species and take steps to avoid spreading them to new waters.
“Equipment like docks, boats, boat lifts and swimming rafts that have been in the water for the season can have invasive species attached to them, said Bob Wakeman, aquatic invasive species coordinator at the Department of Natural Resources. “Inspecting them as they are pulled up on shore or placed into storage for the winter provides a wide-area snapshot of the health of our state waters and a check on the spread of harmful invaders like Eurasian water-milfoil and zebra mussels.
“We get more notifications of possible aquatic invasives in our waters in the fall than at any other time of year,” added Wakeman.
The process is simple. As each item comes out of the water visually inspect areas that have been submerged during the season and run a hand over the submerged surfaces.
“In the case of zebra mussels, adults may not be present but juvenile stages feel like sandpaper when you run your hand over a surface they’ve attached themselves to,” says Wakeman.
Zebra mussels have been found in less than five percent of the Wisconsin waters suitable for them, but when they do get established in a lake, they can clog water intakes, encrust piers, boats and motors and their sharp shells can cut swimmers’ feet.
Reporting a find
People can report suspected invasive species on the DNR website. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search for, “invasive species” and click on the “report” button. There is also a list of DNR aquatic species coordinators you can contact.
Wisconsin has invasive species laws
Wisconsin has laws requiring anyone pulling a boat or other items like docks, lifts and rafts out of the water to clean any plant and animal material clinging to the items before transporting to another location or body of water. The laws were enacted by the legislature to help prevent the spread of harmful aquatic invasives and protect the water resources so valuable to our way of life in Wisconsin.
If the item is only being pulled up on the immediately adjacent shoreline for winter storage it need not be cleaned but if it is being transported to another location for winter storage cleaning is required before transport.
There are businesses that can pull items from the water for a resident and store them for the winter. These businesses need a special DNR permit allowing them to transport items directly to their facility where they are cleaned.
“Keeping our waters healthy and free of invasives is a group effort,” said Wakeman. “Early detection is one of our best tools for slowing their spread. For species like the zebra mussel, once they are found, we can notify stakeholders and work with them to take extra precautions to notify boaters about their presence and urge extra care in moving water or anything that comes out of the water in question. For others, like Eurasian water milfoil, steps can be taken to remove it if it has not spread too far.”
Wakeman reminds folks that a few simple steps can do a lot to protect our waters:
• Inspect – boats, trailers, boat lifts, piers, rafts and equipment when they come out of the water
• Remove – all attached aquatic plants and animals
• Drain – all water from boats, vehicles and equipment