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Lakeshore devices to record video of boaters, give audio reminders on AIS rules

Roger Sweep pulls the plug on his boat Tuesday after fishing on Lake Florida, north of Willmar. Draining water from boats is one of the basic rules to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Not following those rules could be captured on a new system that video records boats that come and go to three county lakes. CAROLYN LANGE/FORUM NEWS SERVICE1 / 2
A solar-powered video eye that records boats coming and going to lakes is operating at three lakes, including this one at Lake Florida. The device also delivers an audio message reminding people to follow rules to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. CAROLYN LANGE/FORUM NEWS SERVICE2 / 2

SPICER, Minn. -- After catching a few nice northerns Tuesday on Lake Florida, Roger Sweep pulled his boat out of the lake and then pulled the plug at the rear of the boat to drain out the water.

It's one of the basic rules Minnesota boaters are asked to follow to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, such as Eurasian water milfoil or the dreaded zebra mussels.

"I think it's important to follow the rules because if we don't we won't have lakes for our grandchildren and great-great grandchildren to fish in because they'll be so polluted with the weeds and the invasive species," Sweep said. "It's a necessity. An absolute necessity to follow the rules."

For someone like Sweep, following the AIS rules comes naturally.

But for others, a little audio reminder at the Lake Florida boat access might come in handy.

Looking a bit like a skinny blue fire hydrant, an Internet Landing Installed Device Sensor, or I-LIDS, provides a brief audio reminder to boaters who are launching their boats.

The sensors on the solar-powered units are triggered when a vehicle passes in front of its electronic eye.

"Welcome to Lake Florida," it squawks. "Please take a minute and inspect your boat and trailer before and after launching to remove any aquatic plants or animals. Thanks you for helping us preserve the lake."

Along with the pro-active message, the unit also takes crystal-clear videos of boats and vehicles going to and coming from the boat launch.

Those videos are viewed by Kandiyohi County AIS inspectors who look for possible violations, such as weeds hanging from a boat or trailer.

The video catches clear video of the boat ID numbers, which allows law enforcement to track down owners.

Any violators will get a call -- and a friendly reminder -- about AIS rules.

There is also the possibility of a civil fine being issued, said Dave Paulsen, AIS coordinator for Kandiyohi County.

But he said the main goal of the I-LIDS program is education and to serve as another set of eyes on lakes without real-life AIS inspectors.

"It's really been beneficial to give an extra tool for our inspectors to look at several locations at once," Paulsen said.

This type of electronic eye for AIS is popular in Wisconsin and is starting to become more prevalent in Minnesota, Paulsen said.

"We're one of several communities that are actually utilizing this tool to help provide enforcement when you can't have live inspectors throughout the county," he said.

Costing $7,000 each, the county purchased three units with money the county received as part of a statewide AIS program.

Besides the one on Lake Florida, one is installed at the Rush Brown access on Green Lake and another on East Solomon Lake.

In mid-summer the I-LIDS unit from East Solomon will be moved to Games Lake.

If the program proves successful, more may be purchased and installed at additional lakes in the future.

The electronic monitoring doesn't take the place of real inspectors who are at various lake accesses throughout the county, but Paulsen said the video downloads quickly to the system and a suspect boat that's seen on the video going into a lake could be reported and law enforcement could be sent there before the boater got off the lake.

Although the big-brother aspect of the I-LIDS may unnerve some, a sign on the unit clearly informs people that inspection cameras are operating.

Considering the risk aquatic invasive species can be to lakes, the county's AIS committee is eager to have another set of eyes on the problem.

The units have been in operation a couple weeks in Kandiyohi County and so far no violators have been caught on video.

The cameras did capture a spider that decided to crawl onto the electronic eye, which made the creepy-crawler look larger-than-life.

"It looked like Jurassic Park," Paulsen said.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750