The Polk County Board of Commissioners recently approved a draft of the 2020 Aquatic invasive Species plan along with the previous two years’ prevention plans after a presentation by the Planning and Zoning Administrator Jacob Snyder.

    In 2018, the invasive species plan included more youth outreach by going into schools to talk about a variety of items and then let the teachers take over to use the information in their science programs. Snyder said they put out a quiz to get some feedback to see if the students are getting the information out of the slides and added that the fifth grade classrooms were a good age range because the students start to “absorb” information and “bring it home.”

    In 2019, they focused on tools to clean boats, signage at large access sites and stopping aquatic invasive species. Snyder told the board they put up scrubber tools, deck brushes and grabber tools to remove weeds, and people used them. He added that they used two inspectors at the access sites and it seemed to help. When asked about the zebra mussel issue that many lakes and rivers are facing, Snyder said zebra mussels, which are the size of a sunflower seed, have been found in the Red River and they’re putting test kits in other lakes and rivers to watch for them. He added that the mussels feed on large plankton in water and disrupt fish who need to eat and balance, plus there aren’t a lot of predators to zebra mussels. “We can’t keep up with them,” Snyder admitted.

    In 2020, the AIS plan is to do more public service announcements, provide more educational handouts, add new signage and try to find a “feasible” cost method for a station to clean boats for decontamination purposes. Snyder said a kayak could easily bring in zebra mussels just like a boat can so more mobile cleaning stations at river access sites could be beneficial. They’re looking at a more inexpensive approach where someone in Thief River Falls will attempt to duplicate a cleaning station at a lesser cost, but the taskforce still has to look it over and proceed if they approve.

    As far as the 2020 budget goes for AIS, Snyder said they’re sitting in a “very good spot” with some carryovers. While the budgets aren’t due until July, they’ve carried over more than they thought they would, he added.

    Snyder assured the commissioners that he will come back to the board annually and they won’t have to approve the previous year’s plans again.

BUFFER ENFORCEMENT FINES FOR NON-COMPLIANT PARCELS

    Beginning March 15, parcels in Polk County that received notices of corrective actions regarding buffers will have exhausted their “no-penalty periods” and the first enforcement monetary penalty phase will begin. Snyder says the Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) has notified landowners of noncompliant buffers along both public waters and public ditch systems and the penalty phase is as follows: $50 per parcel for those in noncompliance for the first six months, $200 per parcel per month after six months, and repeat violations will be $50 per parcel per day for 180 days after issuance of a Corrective Action Notice.

    Snyder adds that the law, which was enacted three years ago by the State of Minnesota, requires a certain amount of perennial grasses along ditches and buffer on public waters. If someone receives a corrective action letter they should contact their SWCD to see how to get in compliance with the program.

    “We just want to make everyone aware,” Snyder told the commissioners and added they may be fielding unhappy phone calls about the enforcement once the monetary penalty phase begins.