WDNR to Enforce Boat-Cleaning Law on
July 4th Holiday
By Robert Imrie
The Janesville Gazette
Published June 28, 2006
WAUSAU, Wis. - State wardens plan tougher enforcement
during the July Fourth holiday of a law requiring people
to clean their boats to avoid accidentally transporting
invasive species into more Wisconsin waters.
Boaters who don't follow the law can expect citations,
said Randy Stark, chief conservation warden for the Department
of Natural Resources.
"It is a growing problem," he said. "All
the wardens in the state are aware of this initiative."
Until now, wardens have issued only a handful of citations,
Stark said. They now have evidence a growing number of
boaters are simply ignoring the law, meaning they must
move from educating people to cracking down with citations,
"We'd prefer that people come to understand the
law and just do what's right because it's the right thing
to do," he said.
About 500 bodies of water, including Lakes Michigan and
Superior, have either zebra mussels or Eurasian water
milfoil - two of the invasive species that threaten the
recreational quality of the waters, according to the DNR.
A law passed five years ago makes it illegal for people
to launch a boat or boating equipment with an aquatic
plant attached. The fine for the first violation is $154.
Wardens will check boats at landings during the Fourth
of July holiday to enforce the law. They also will hand
out information about aquatic invasive species and show
people how to clean their boats before they launch them
or as they leave the water, Stark said.
Matt Adams, 21, of Wausau, who owns a 16-foot Sea Nymph
powered by a 50-horsepower motor, likes the DNR's plan.
"I always check the bottom of my boat," he
said. "Every time I pull my trailer out of the water,
I check underneath it to make sure there is no seaweed
or anything. I pull the drain plug (on the boat) right
Having DNR wardens at the landings on the Fourth of July
might also have a side benefit, Adams said. "It will
probably keep the drinking and driving down, too,"
The zebra mussel, a native of the Caspian and Black Sea
region, was first found in the Great Lakes in the late
1980s. The mussels quickly made their presence known,
hogging the plankton upon which so many fish species depend.
The zebra mussel infested the first inland Wisconsin
lake in 1993, said Ron Martin, who coordinates the DNR's
efforts to manage aquatic invasive species.
Eurasian water milfoil forms a thick green carpet at
the water's surface that gets tangled in boat propellers,
makes swimming difficult and collects onshore in smelly
clumps that can harbor bacteria. It is believed to have
first gotten into Wisconsin in the early 1960s, Martin
Lakes Superior and Michigan and 92 inland waters have
reproducing populations of zebra mussels, Martin said.
A total of 458 waters, including Great Lake bays and harbors,
have Eurasian water milfoil.
In 2000, 40 water bodies had zebra mussels and 312 had
Eurasian water milfoil. In 1995, only seven water bodies
were infested with zebra mussels and 280 had Eurasian
water milfoil, Martin said.
Another invasive species - rainbow smelt, which can decimate
a walleye population by eating its food - is found in
26 waters, according to the DNR.
Wisconsin has about 15,000 lakes and 44,000 miles of
flowing rivers and streams. The state has more than 630,000
Martin said many boaters are aware of the prevention
steps, in part because volunteers have been stationed
at boat ramps in the past to help educate boaters about
the invasive species problems and how to avoid spreading
A 2003 survey of boaters found 80 percent of them said
they took steps to avoid spreading the invaders, up from
39 percent in a similar survey in 1994, he said.
Jeff Bode, the DNR's chief of lakes and wetlands, said
the survey results were encouraging but problems remain.
"I don't think we have nipped it in the bud at all,"
he said. "I think it is still going to take an understanding
and like so many things these days, it takes behavior
changes. People just have to stop and take the time to
clean their boats before they launch them in the next
lake. That is different than the way it's been in the
The number of lakes with invaders is worrisome, Bode
"It doesn't mean that when these critters get into
a lake it is the end of the world, but it does cause some
serious recreation problems, some ecosystem consequences
and frankly costs a lot of local lake associations literally
hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in terms of management,"