All summer long and into the fall, Jane Perrino and two dozen volunteers have been setting up a portable boat washer and an information station at lakeside boat launches all across Leelanau, Benzie and Manistee Counties. By mid-September, they had visited at least 22 different boat launches for one or more days, handing out literature, logging information and providing free power-washes to every boat that entered or exited the lake at that location.
Perrino is the Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator for the Benzie Conservation District. In this video, Perrino explains why the Benzie Conservation District is running this program and why it matters. Boats of all kinds can quickly accumulate plant remnants and seeds as well as many small forms of animals, including zebra mussels. Then, when these watercraft are moved, they can transfer that material to other lakes. In fact, that’s how zebra mussels were transferred from one lake to another in Northwest Lower Michigan, hitching a ride on a trailer, a boat or fishing gear that was not been properly cleaned or thoroughly dried out (e.g., out of the water for 10 days to two weeks).
There are dozens of non-native and invasive plants and animals that pose threats to lakes and streams. One example of an invasive plant is Eurasian watermilfoil. Perrino points out that once this plant is introduced into a lake, it can proliferate and grow so much that it overcomes much of the native vegetation, disrupting fish habitat, and changing the water chemistry in detrimental ways.
This project is introducing recreational boaters and lake associations to the benefits of properly caring for watercraft and gear to prevent the transfer of invasive aquatic plant and animal. Perinno hopes that people will take more time to check their gear for hitch hikers and clean their own boats (e.g., at car washes). She’s also hopeful that lake associations and other groups will follow the lead of the Benzie Conservation District and invest in their own boat washers.
“Stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species is everyone’s business,” Perrino says.
Editor’s Note: The Aquatic Invasive Species Pathways Project is funded in part through the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program, a collaboration between the Michigan departments of Environmental Quality, Natural Resources & Agriculture and Rural Development.