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DNR warning: Waters dangerously high and fast

June 23, 2014

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Following recent rains across the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging boaters, paddlers and swimmers to think twice before heading out on the water right now.

People must be especially cautious around high water; making sure they wear a life jacket and are aware of local flooding conditions and alerts. People also should not venture into flooded areas.

“Rivers, lakes and streams around Minnesota are extremely swollen and that water is cooler than normal,” said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist.

Water temperatures around the metro are hovering around 70 degrees, which is 5-10 degrees colder than normal.

“Stream and river currents are also extremely strong and moving fast, which many boaters and swimmers are not used to,” Owens said.

Boaters should also be aware that there’s more debris in the water. That includes both natural and man-made objects that have been swept into the river.

“Debris will often float just at or below the surface,” Owens said. “Hitting a log at high speed could result in damage to boats or serious injuries.”

So far this year, three people have died in boating accidents compared to five this time last year.

A no-wake zone is currently in effect on rivers and lakes around the metro, including the St. Croix River from Taylors Falls to Prescott, Prior Lake and Lake Minnetonka. The Minneapolis locks on the Mississippi River are closed to both recreational and commercial traffic.

For more information, visit the DNR website: www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/boatwater/index.html.

Obama approves closure of Upper St. Anthony Falls lock
From the DNR

A significant step has been taken toward protecting the Upper Mississippi River above the Twin Cities from invasive carp.

President Barack Obama signed legislation June 10, that will close the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock to boat traffic.

Located in downtown Minneapolis, the lock is the northern-most navigational structure on the Mississippi River.

Closure will help keep invasive carp, such as bighead and silver carp, from reaching Mille Lacs Lake and other important waters north of the Twin Cities.

The Department of Natural Resources would like to thank Gov. Mark Dayton and Minnesota’s congressional members who supported this provision. They include Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Reps. Keith Ellison, Rick Nolan, Erik Paulsen and Tim Walz.

Klobuchar and Ellison were the original authors of the bill. Nolan played a critical role in getting the provision through the House committee process and championed it in conference committee.

Dayton has also been a leader in bringing the issue of invasive carp to the public’s attention and pursuing protections for Minnesota’s waters.

“Closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock is the single biggest and most important step Minnesota can take to keep invasive carp out of the Upper Mississippi River watershed, including Mille Lacs Lake,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “This will protect our local economies and outdoor heritage in the north-central part of the state.”

The DNR anticipates the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and city of Minneapolis will work with affected parties to ensure timely and efficient closure. Under the new law, the Corps has up to one year to close the lock.

While lock closure will prevent carp from swimming upstream, there still exists the risk of humans introducing carp into the Upper Mississippi River watershed, despite the fact it is illegal to transport invasive carp. The DNR will continue its education and enforcement efforts to minimize this risk.

Landwehr said closing the lock will allow the DNR to reallocate its resources to other ongoing invasive carp prevention priorities.

Those efforts include: creating several barrier projects in southwestern Minnesota to keep invasive carp from coming in through the Missouri River system; and working with the University of Minnesota Invasive Species Research Center to limit or slow the carps’ spread through the lower locks and dams to protect other parts of the Mississippi River and important tributaries like the St. Croix and Minnesota rivers.

Roadsides are important habitat for pollinators and pheasants
From the DNR

Delaying roadside mowing until Aug. 1 benefits pheasants, songbirds, pollinators and more, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“With a growing concern for pollinators, we all need to do our part to protect wildflower habitat,” said Carmelita Nelson, DNR prairie grassland coordinator. “That’s why we urge owners of land along Minnesota roads and highways to avoid mowing or otherwise disturbing the roadside vegetation until after Aug. 1 or even until the fall to provide flowers for bees and nesting cover for birds.”

Roadsides with native wildflowers are especially beneficial to native bees. Research has shown that the width of the roadside and the proximity to traffic does not matter to bees. Minnesota bee keepers place a high value on roadside wildflowers. The loss of habitat is one of the critical causes of the decline of both wild bees and honeybees.

Roadsides also provide more than 500,000 acres of nesting areas in the pheasant range of southern and western Minnesota. Roadside habitat is especially important in intensively row cropped regions where there is little other grassland available.

“After a difficult winter and wet spring, we are concerned about pheasant nesting this year,” said Scott Roemhildt, DNR information officer. “In spite of the weather, pheasant nesting is pretty much on a typical schedule.”

Most pheasant hens are currently sitting on nests and will hatch their broods in mid- to late June. A nesting hen lays eggs at a rate of about one per day. Nests contain an average of 12 eggs. The incubation period is 23 days and starts after all eggs have been laid. The hen remains on the nest, leaving only briefly to feed. If the nest is destroyed, the hen will repeatedly nest until she is successful in hatching a clutch, although re-nesting clutches have fewer eggs.

The peak hatch time for pheasants (about 60 percent) is the third week in June, but depending on the weather there are still a lot of birds nesting in early July. Hens will make from one to four attempts at nesting during the spring nesting season, but will only hatch one brood per year.

Chicks need to be at least two to three weeks old to have any chance of escape from mowers. By Aug. 1 the reproductive season is over for most pheasant with the exception of a few late re-nesting attempts.

In Minnesota, between one-fourth and one-third of pheasants are hatched in roadsides. Roadsides are also important habitat to teal, mallards, gray partridge, many grassland songbirds, frogs and turtles.

The way roadsides are managed can influence the abundance of local wildlife populations. Roadsides should also be protected from burning, crop tillage, grazing, blanket spraying of herbicides and vehicle encroachment during these months. At sites where noxious weeds are a problem, it is recommended that landowners use spot mowing or spraying for treatment.

For more information on the Roadsides for Wildlife program, visit the DNR website: www.mndnr.gov/roadsidesforwildlife or contact the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.

Heavy rains prompt closures of some OHV trails and state forest roads
From the DNR

Heavy rains in portions of northern Minnesota have prompted the closure of some off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails and state forest roads, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

Some forest roads and OHV trails are flooded, are unstable due to soil saturation or have washed out in sections, so several have been temporarily closed to the public and signed at entry points.

Kabetogema, Koochiching, Land O’Lakes and St. Croix state forests are some of the impacted areas.

State forest road and trail users should check “Current Conditions” on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/trailconditions/index.html before traveling. Road and trail closing information will be updated as conditions change.

“By checking the conditions online, trails users should be able to find alternative locations where they can still get out to enjoy the trails,” said Joe Alberio, a district supervisor for the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “The road and trail closures will be lifted as soon as conditions allow and repairs are made, and we ask everyone to ride responsibly wherever they are.”

State forest road and trail condition information is also available by contacting the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us, 651-296-6157, or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

DNR Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: What is being done to stop the spread of emerald ash borer in Minnesota?

A: Cities with known infestations are taking infested trees down and grinding the wood for use as biofuel. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has released stingless wasps that eat ash borer eggs and larvae. The agency also traps ash borer with guidance from the U.S. Forest Service.

The University of Minnesota is researching cold tolerance among both emerald ash borer and their parasitoids (wasps), and also exploring forest management options to maintain forest health and function after ash trees die. The DNR is working to prepare cities and townships to deal with emerald ash borer once it arrives in their communities.

The combination of these methods has kept ash borer population numbers relatively low in Minnesota and has successfully slowed the rate of spread within the state.

CO weekly report
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers.
CO Mies attended some training.
CO Mies worked on a waters tip call along with AIS.

• CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked fishermen on area lakes and rivers.
He followed up on a number of nuisance bear complaints.
Officer Sladek issued nuisance beaver permits and checked on a waters complaint on an area lake.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) followed up on several angling violations.
CO Reller also assisted at the academy and checked local lake accesses for AIS compliance.
Buffalo Days was attended with the Wall of Shame displayed on Saturday.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) issued possession permits for car killed deer and otter.
Beaver damage trapping permits were issued.
A large amount of litter dumped at Swede Lake is being investigated.
TIP calls on taking over limits and undersized walleye were handled.
Assistance was given to the Carver County Sheriff’s Department on a possible capsized boat on Lake Waconia and high water levels on all of Carver County lakes.
He assisted with the Play, Clean, Go event at Carver Park.
Boaters were checked for safety equipment and AIS violations.

• CO Brent Grewe (Minnetonka) spent the week checking anglers and recreational boaters.
CO Grewe attended training at Fort Snelling and attended a meeting at Hennepin County Water Patrol.
Violations included violating the no wake ordinance on Lake Minnetonka and no lifejackets.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) followed up on a complaint of shooting with in a state refuge.
She investigated a call of a fish basket under a dock with dead sunfish inside.
ATV enforcement was done throughout the week.
She spent time at Camp Ripley instructing at the academy and attended a meeting for instructors.
Mueller also found a business that was selling leeches without a permit.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) focused on night enforcement.
Oberg enforced and advised operators of ATV laws on the Luce Line State Trail.
Oberg also spent time working with a Division of Enforcement intern.
Oberg spent time talking and answering question about getting a job in a natural resources field.