The announcement of the presence of eDNA of zebra mussels in Clear Lake at Riding Mountain National Park has prompted lake communities to take action to thwart the spread of zebra mussels.

The Sandy Lake Protection Group has taken to enforce stricter measures to reduce the threat of zebra mussels into their lake.

The 'OneBoat/OneLake' initiative will start with all boat owners/operators June 1st.

President Daryl Kines says the first step is to educate watercraft owners about aquatic invasive species, all AIS but most notably zebra mussels.

"Aquatic invasive species public awareness is the number one thing, and we are doing a fair amount of that," explains Kines, "and in addition to that we have instituted a program for trailered watercraft. Those are the highest risk watercraft because they can carry water. The water can hide zebra mussel veligers. These are the fertilized eggs and they're microscopic. You can't see them with the naked eye.  That's what we inspect for, for the most part. 

Watercraft will be inspected for any standing water, that includes live wells, bilge pumps, wet lifejackets, buckets, any boat motor that retains water, etc.

Trailered watercraft will be inspected, and the watercraft will be tied to its trailer with a special zip tie, alerting staff at Sandy Lake's main dock that the boat and trailer have not been launched at any other lake or waterway.  When the boat and trailer have both been approved the tie is cut and the boat is allowed to launch.

All trailered boats that arrive after June 10th, and do not present with the Sandy Lake tag then staff will perform an inspection of the watercraft.  Depending on what is found, the watercraft may be allowed into the lake, or it may be denied with instruction to visit to the nearest decontamination station located at Minnedosa.

Watercraft owners who are participating in the program will have their boats tied to the trailer once again upon leaving the lake with the Sandy Lake tag.

Boats that have been tagged and approved by the Province of Manitoba's AIS watercraft inspection stations will be allowed into Sandy Lake, but again, upon leaving the lake will be asked to join the Sandy Lake program and to be tagged with their tag.

 "The other watercraft, the watercraft that is lower risk (like kayaks, canoes and peddle boats) and we're not able to control them, we have to go cottage to cottage and the campground, and we'll have to bring them up to speed with the risks that we're facing having zebra mussels found in Clear Lake," explains Kines.  

"So, it's an education program and hopefully we'll be able to register these watercrafts.  As part of the registration process, individuals can commit their watercraft to just using it in Sandy Lake."

To facilitate the program, Sandy Lake will continue with their summer staffing as they have been doing since 2018.  Staff members are on site at the boat launch to strictly monitor the boats that go in and out of the lake.  The Harrison Park municipality has partnered with the Sandy Lake Protection Group.

"Our municipality has given us permission to put up a gate, a couple of posts and a chain across our watercraft launch point at the Main Street dock.  We've closed off the public access point that used to be opened a number of years ago."

Kines says there are a couple of other water access points on private property and so conversation will be taking place to partner with them to also close these launch areas off, or to assist them in the 'one boat-one lake' program.

Funding for the inspection program at Sandy Lake has been funded in the past by provincial grants, the municipality and the lake committee's fundraisers.

Please listen to more with Daryl Kines below!

A $15 registration fee to participate in the 'OneBoat/OneLake' program will help with this year's funding a bit, however volunteerism is being looked at to accommodate staffing as well especially in the off-hours and before the potential summer staff are still in school.

For the most part, Kines says the community has embraced this program and have had many come to them with a positive response.

A most recent meeting brought many to the discussion table, leaving the community hall with standing room only.  Kines says it is certainly a hot topic, but it is a very serious topic that is important for everyone who enjoys the lake.  Many responded positively with a few minor complaints, specifically about the registration fee being enforced as folks are already pays taxes.

"Once we explained the program, people were fairly happy with it," Kines shares. "In fact, we had a lot of people who were more than happy with it, they had to come and thank a number of us for our efforts. They were very pleased."