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Aquatic Invasive Species Inspections Report Released by Cook County Soil & Water Conservation District

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are organ­isms not native to a water system that were introduced, sometimes inadvertently, into a new marine environment. They are threaten­ing Minnesota waters.

These non-native species harm fish popu­lations, water quality, and water recreation.

In conjunction with the Minnesota DNR, the Cook County Soil and Water Conser­vation District (SWCD) is working to pre­vent the spread of harmful AIS in and from the roughly 35 bodies of water where one or more AIS are present. There are almost 2,000 bodies of water in Cook County, which means that, so far, the percentage of local lake and streams infested with AIS is far lower than in other parts of the state.

SWCD receives grants from the State of Minnesota to fund its efforts to stop the intro­duction and limit the spread of AIS. The grant suggests activities that include oversight, management, county-wide public awareness, AIS monitoring, and ways to enhance com­pliance with guidelines and rules that are in place in Minnesota to limit the spread of AIS.

Amana Weberg, AIS Program Supervisor, is a part-time employee at SWCD who de­votes 100% of her work time to AIS work.

This season, she supervised four DNR-trained Level 1 Watercraft Inspectors who worked at 20 access points on 19 bodies of water. Level 1 includes a visual and tactile inspection of watercraft set to enter or leave a body of water to identify if AIS is present and ensure they are handled appropriately. In ad­dition, the Level 1 inspector ensures that the watercraft owner understands the importance of draining, drying, and cleaning any equip­ment that comes in contact with the water.

From June through September, 1,127 Level 1 inspections were performed. All inspected watercraft entered the water free of aquatic plants, and all but a handful were recorded as arriving with bilge drain plugs removed as required by state law.

On community engagement, Weberg and 20 volunteers participated in 20 events about AIS or included an AIS component in the event. Over 2,000 residents and visitors were directly engaged during AIS events. SWCD advertised its work to prevent the spread of AIS on billboards, TV, radio, online, and print media.

Local organizations were also involved in AiS work during the year. There were 16 lakes associations, all Cook County Schools, 40 different businesses, five local governments, and the tribal government in Grand Portage.

There is an AIS advisory committee that meets regularly. Additional AIS prevention aid program information can be found at the SWCD portion of the Cook County website at www.co.cook.mn.us.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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