PO Box 342
Webster, WI54893

 

Combating aquatic invasive species
November 24, 2008
By TODD BECKMANN

“This work is important to our quality of life, our water quality and our fishing and tourism industries," Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank said in releasing nearly $2.5 million in grants to fight the spread of aquatic invasive species in state waters.

“Wisconsin is defined by water. These grants support community-based efforts to prevent species such as Eurasian water-milfoil and zebra mussels from choking our waterways or crowding out our native species,” Frank said of the DNR’s program known as Aquatic Invasive Species and Prevention grants.

Forty-one towns, counties and local lake management districts are among those who will share this latest round of funds.

The Burnett County Land and Water department was awarded a $155,000 grant. "It will allow us to put a staff member focused on the invasive species problem," county conservationist Dave Ferris explained.

Brad Morris, a science teacher from Siren has been working summers for Ferris' department in other areas, is most likely going to be switched to invasive species specialist.

"Besides full time in the summer, he will work throughout the year to provide services to lake associations concerning aquatic invasive species," Ferris said.

This work would include writing reports, designing aquatic plant management plans, making contacts with the lake associations if they have AIS questions or he may even help lake associations apply for grants.

Ferris sees the grant lasting at least four years, longer if possible.

"Twenty-five percent of the total project cost has to be some sort of local match, whether it be in-kind services, cash or whatever," he said.

"The National Park Service is cooperating with us so we get a credit for the time they have spent on AIS on the rivers which border our county," Ferris continued, citing one example of an in-kind match.

To aid in prolonging the grant, Ferris said the county will be sending out letters to the individual lakes associations as well as the county lake association for contributions to the project.

"Obviously, this is very important to them and their use of the lakes," he pointed out.

Besides the lake associations, the county will look at villages and townships for possible donations.

"Hopefully they recognize the value of the lakes in their township and maybe they can contribute as well," he said.

Gov. Doyle tripled the funds for local aquatic invasive species prevention and control efforts in his 2007-2009 budget, and this round of funding totaled almost $2.5 million.

“The state cannot stop invasive species from entering our waters by itself. We need local partners who know their lakes, and also understand how lakes support Wisconsin’s tourism industry and the local and state economy,” Frank said.

"The fact the match is 25 percent instead of 50 percent makes it a lot easier on local government to get some aquatic invasive work done," Ferris explained.

Ferris said the position, which must be approved by the county board, will begin sometime in the spring of 2009.

Since its inception in fiscal year 2004, the AIS grant program has invested about $9 million in grants to reimburse local projects up to 75 percent of expenses. Half of the total awarded in the last five years has gone for work in northern Wisconsin, and nearly 50 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have received AIS grants. The program is funded with the state’s motorboat gas tax.

The total awarded in the last five years does not represent all the work in the fight against AIS.

“There are many volunteers in each county who take care of the lakes as a labor of love — they do not get paid, but their sweat is a key reason why most Wisconsin lakes, wetlands and rivers don’t have the most troublesome invasive species,” Frank said of the volunteers who logged 11,000 hours educating boaters at landings in 2008.