A slate of new laws designed to curb the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) was approved in a recent bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton.
A program requiring watercraft owners to place an AIS rules sticker on their boats is being discontinued and replaced with an online education program. Watercraft owners will no longer be required to place on their boats the rectangular, silver and black decals, which include a summary of the state’s AIS laws.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began distributing the decals earlier this year and will continue to give them to interested boat owners for informational purposes only.
A new law, which goes into effect 2015, will require anyone who transports watercraft or water-related equipment with a trailer to complete an online education course. After completing the course, the person will receive a decal that must be placed on their trailer, certifying they have taken the course. People taking the course can receive extra stickers if they own or use multiple trailers for watercraft or water-related equipment.
"The black and silver decal is no longer mandatory for boaters, but it is still a good informational tool to help boaters know the AIS laws," said Luke Skinner, aquatic invasive species program supervisor. Boaters who have decals can still place them on their boats or trailers as a reminder.
He said the DNR will begin developing the online AIS course soon to implement the new decal requirement for 2015. The penalty for not displaying the decal will be a warning, not a citation.
Other new AIS laws will be instituted July 1, 2012, as a result of the new legislation:
Civil penalties for violating the state’s AIS laws will double. Fines that currently range from $50 to $250 will increase to $100 to $500, depending on the type of violation. For example, failure to remove a drain plug while transporting a watercraft will mean a $100 fine, instead of a $50 penalty. The fine for unlawfully possessing and transporting prohibited aquatic invasive species will increase from $250 to $500.
Boat lifts, docks, swim rafts and other water-related equipment (except boats and other watercraft) that are removed from any water body may not be placed in another water body for at least 21 days. The drying out period is designed to kill any AIS that might be attached to the equipment that are high risk and difficult to clean. Two zebra mussel introductions occurred last year as a result of water equipment being sold and moved from one water body to another.
Boat clubs, yacht clubs, marinas and other similar organizations are now considered lake-service providers, requiring permits for the clubs and staff working there to take AIS certification training.
Portable bait containers used while fishing through the ice do not need to be drained before leaving a water body, unless the water body has been declared to have viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), a virus that is deadly to fish.
The DNR was given additional authority to require mandatory inspections of water-related equipment before a person places or removes equipment into or out of a water body and to set up inspection stations at a centralized location to cover multiple lakes. The new legislation also allows the DNR to delegate this authority to local governments that have an approved inspection plan.
More information about the DNR’s aquatic invasive species programs can be found at www.mndnr.gov/invasives.