Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)

Aquatic Invasive Species are non-native plants, fish, invertebrates and microbes. These species tend to spread rapidly in new areas, out-compete resident species, and cause ecological or economic harm and harm to human and pet health. Minnesota DNR’s Guide to Aquatic Invasives or MN Aquatic Invasives Resource Center for examples.

In an effort to stop these aquatic hitchhikers, North St Louis Soil & Water Conservation District implemented a watercraft inspection and decontamination program on Lake Vermilion in partnership with the Vermilion Lake Association in 2016. This program, generously funded by St. Louis County AIS Prevention Funds, provided over 12,000 watercraft inspections on 11 of 16 public accesses as well as at four private landings in its inaugural season. We are grateful for the partnerships with Vermilion Dam Lodge, Pehrson’s Lodge, White Eagle Resort, and Fortune Bay Resort for allowing watercraft inspections at their landings. Thank you for your work to help Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!

Watercraft inspectors are trained by the DNR and are authorized to deny launch if your watercraft is contaminated with Aquatic Invasive Species. As authorized agents of the DNR, it is required that you have your watercraft inspected before landing and upon departure, if an inspector is present.


What if your watercraft is considered to be contaminated? Before launching your watercraft on any body of water, you can clean your boat. You may also use one of our free boat decontamination stations. Staff at the decontamination stations are trained and certified by the DNR on the high-temperature rinse and high pressure spray unit.

How can you help Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers?

By following simple procedures each time you leave the water, you can stop aquatic hitchhikers.

  • CLEAN watercraft, trailer, motor, and water-related equipment. REMOVE visible aquatic plants, mussels, other animals, and mud before leaving any water access.
  • DRAIN water-related equipment (boat, ballast tanks, portable bait containers, motor) and drain  bilge, livewell and baitwell by removing drain plugs before leaving a water access or shoreline property. Keep drain plugs out and water-draining devices open while transporting watercraft.
  • DISPOSE of unwanted bait, including minnows, leeches, and worms, in the trash. It is illegal to release bait into a waterbody or release aquatic animals from one waterbody to another. If you want to keep your bait, you must refill the bait container with bottled or tap water.

Answers to Common AIS Questions

  • AIS can be stopped; waterfowl do not spread zebra or quagga mussels.
    • The spread of AIS follows the highways not the flyways. There is no evidence or reliable research that water in the bill of a pelican or a cormorant spreads AIS. There are no known infestations contributed to by this vector.
  • Inspections lower the risk of AIS transfer.
    • Everyone is responsible to protect our water resources. Inconvenience does not trump being a responsible boater.
  • Introducing a new invasive to a waterway only compounds issues.
    • There are many other aquatic invasive species on their way to Minnesota that can be more devastating than zebra mussels. Quagga mussels can out-compete zebra mussels for food and live in much deeper depths of water. Hydrilla is like milfoil on steroids. In addition, the impact of individual AIS becomes more complex with each invasive in a water body. Once a water body has one invasive, it becomes more important to keep any other AIS out.
  • Inspections are necessary between launches, even in non-infested waters.
    • It is impossible to know which lake may already be infested, therefore it is necessary to assume all water bodies may be infested. It takes 2-3 years after an infestation to discover a colony of mussels.
  • Decontamination is worth the time.
    • On average, ballast tank decontamination will take about 30 minutes. The outdrive (lower unit) of an engine will take about 10 minutes. Decontaminating an average boat without any tanks or live wells could take less than 30 minutes.

HABITATTITUDE – Adopt a conservation mentality. Protect our environment by not releasing unwanted fish and aquatic plants from your aquarium, backyard pond or water garden. If you have an undesirable aquatic plant or fish species in your aquarium or water garden, it is important not to release these plants or animals into the environment. While most of them will die, some survive. And they have the potential to create negative impacts on our natural environment.

Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center There are nearly three dozen AIS — about an equal number of plants, fishes, invertebrates, and microbes — that MAISRC currently considers high-risk for Minnesota and in need of research into their detection, prevention and control. Learn more about these priority species by clicking below.

Water Quality Monitoring

The District receives funding from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) through the Clean Water Fund to help provide research and outreach assistance by major watershed. (A major watershed is comprised of smaller watersheds which all drain into the same larger lake or river.) MPCA categorizes the state into 80 watersheds. St. Louis County is part of 7 watersheds.

Currently the District provides field research and community outreach assistance for 3 major watersheds within the County: the Rainy Rivers Headwaters, Vermilion River and St. Louis River Watersheds.

Staff collect water samples which are sent to a lab for analysis. This information is entered into MPCA’s EQuIS system and integrated into the MPCA’s Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) process. The agency also held meetings and met with interested stakeholders to discuss common water quality issues and learn of interest in forming lake, river or watershed associations.

Surface Water Assessment

MPCA contracted with the District for 2015-2016 to collect water quality data for 22 lakes and 9 streams in the Cloquet River, Rainy River Headwaters, and Vermilion River Watersheds to determine the health of Minnesota’s lakes and streams. The District collected water samples which were sent to a lab for analysis. Water chemistry results are entered into MPCA’s EQuIS system. The data is used to determine if water bodies meet state standards for designated uses such as swimming and fishing. This is the first step in protecting or restoring Minnesota’s lakes and streams. The results help establish priorities for future Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS).

Citizen Lake Monitoring Program & Citizen Stream Monitoring Program

The Citizen Lake Monitoring Program (CLMP) and the Citizen Stream Monitoring Progam are cooperative programs combining the technical resources of the MPCA and the volunteer efforts of Minnesota citizens who collect water-quality data on their lakes and streams. To find out the water quality condition of any lake or stream enrolled in the CLMP or CSMP, use the Search Form located at http://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/clmp.html

Water clarity data collected by lake and stream volunteers are used to better understand the condition of the state’s water resources, and to make decisions on restoration and protection.  Monitoring is quick and easy, and the MPCA provides equipment free of charge. No prior experience or training is necessary. To get started, submit an enrollment form:

Lake Enrollment Form

Stream Enrollment Form

Minnesota Spring Inventory

The MN DNR has developed a Springs Reporting App to expand the current knowledge of springs. It is gathering information from various agency records and searching public lands, but also needs the help of private citizens to make the inventory more comprehensive.

You can add to the inventory using the Minnesota DNR Statewide Spring Inventory App from your mobile device in the field, or from your computer based on map location or aerial imagery. Spring locations will be available on a Spring Inventory Map after verification by the DNR.

Springs have their own aesthetic and historical value that creates a special “sense of place” for local residents and visitors. Preserving springs contributes to a love of the land and an environmental ethic that helps create a Minnesota quality of life. You can’t protect something if there is no public or government awareness of its existence. -Greg Brick, DNR

Well Water

If you are concerned about your well water, please contact a private lab for testing. More information can be found here.

North St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District

505 3rd St N, Ste A,
Virginia, MN 55792
Office Hours: 8:30 - 4 Monday-Friday and by appointment

Upcoming Board Meetings

Wednesday, April 8th at 10:30 a.m.
Meeting to be held electronically. Call or email Anita for login information.

View Meeting Schedule »
Minnesota Clean Air and Water Legacy Amendment