Minneapolis looks to ramp up inspections on city lakes this summer

The Minneapolis Park Board might get even tougher on keeping zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species out of city lakes this summer, as commissioners are considering a proposal to inspect boats 16 hours a day at each of the city’s three public launches.

Last July, the Park Board for the first time clamped down at its boat launches at lakes Harriet, Calhoun and Nokomis, staffing an inspector to check for invasive species. Boats could not launch without an inspection.

Last summer’s policy received backlash from the fishing community, who complained that because the Park Board didn’t staff inspectors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, anglers were being denied access to public lakes.

This spring, the Park Board is approving more inspection hours: from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day from April 15 through Dec. 1.

A Park Board committee will consider the new hours at a meeting on March 20. Communications Specialist Robin Smothers said if approved, the Park Board would staff the launches with Conservation Corps of Minnesota crews at a cost of $160,000 for the year. Smothers said the Park Board is applying for grants from “other local agencies” to help cover some of the costs.

A Park Board resolution says the threat of aquatic invasive species has “grown to a very high level,” noting that zebra mussels were found in Lake Minnetonka in 2010 and that 40 other species have been identified as threats to Minnesota waterways.

The Park Board, under the proposal, would begin locking the boat launches when they’re closed. Previously, they were chained but not locked.

The policy does not apply to canoes and kayaks, which are often launched from spots along the shore.

According to the Park Board resolution, last year staff did 1,000 inspections at Minneapolis lakes. Inspectors did not find any aquatic invasive species in boats being launches.