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County to receive $75,000 for aquatic invasive species prevention

A Department of Natural Resources employee helps a boatowner check his boat and trailer for invasive species. The state has granted Lake County money to help fight aquatic invasive species in waterways in the county. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota DNR.

Recently, the 2014 Minnesota State Legislature approved funding to Minnesota counties for aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention. According to Lake County Administrator Matt Huddleston, the timing of the funding was fortunate.

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In May, zebra mussels were discovered in Crooked Lake in eastern Lake County. While this is the first and only infested inland lake in the county, Huddleston said the grant funding will be helpful in a county with so many access points.

“The funding was distributed by the number of lake access points and access parking areas each county has,” Huddleston said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, invasive species are species not native to Minnesota that cause economic or environmental harm or harm human health. In addition to zebra mussels, there are a handful of other plants and animals that have infested waters across the state, like sea lamprey and Eurasian watermilfoil.

Lake County will be receiving about $75,000 for 2014. Huddleston said that amount is less than half of what he expects for 2015.

“I believe that statewide funding for the project is about $10 million. In 2015, we are slated to receive around $165,000,” he said, adding that in subsequent years, funding will be subject to legislative action.

According to Huddleston, options of how and where to spend the money are still in the planning stages with many possibilities.

“It appears we have unlimited flexibility in dispersing the funding as long as it is for AIS prevention,” he said. The biggest requirement right now is to develop and submit a plan of action by the end of the year.

Huddleston said he will be working with the county commissioners to determine the best course of action for obtaining input on how to utilize the funding.

“I would like to set up a public input session sometime in the future to allow many different stakeholders to participate with their ideas,” he said.

According to Huddleston, the flexibility of the funding also includes the possibility of doling out money to other entities that would be capable of AIS prevention. He said that could include government entities like law enforcement, soil and water conservation districts or even nonprofits or lake associations.

Huddleston said he has been working with the DNR for training and assistance in AIS prevention and plans to continue to utilize the DNR as a resource.

“They have a program already in place and have helped us by providing training webinars,” he said.

Huddleston said the county will be providing more information about the project as plans develop. Watch the News-Chronicle for updates on any public forums.