TRAVERSE CITY — Some Michigan State University students recently came to Grand Traverse County as part of a mobile boat wash project that included stops at Green, Duck and Spider lakes.
The effort is an awareness and education campaign about the spread of invasive species in Michigan's waters, part of a partnership among the university, the state Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Forest Service. The students talk to as many boaters as possible at the mobile boat wash stations, often set up at public boat launches.
"The program is all about raising boaters' awareness of how boats can transport invasive species from one lake to the next," said Jo Latimore, an academic specialist in MSU's fish and wildlife department.
The mobile boat wash came to Spider Lake on Sunday at the invitation of the Spider Lake Property Owners Association, said board member Carol Kuesel.
"The mobile boat wash at Spider Lake was a success because we met the goal of educating both property owners and folks who use our lake about a simple, but very important method to prevent the movement of invasive species via water equipment," she said.
Kuesel said at least 10 lakeside property owners stopped by to help with the boat wash and learn about the process.
"All of them left with a deeper understanding of the importance of cleaning water equipment when moving from one body of water to another," she said.
Invasive species already known to be in Spider Lake include zebra mussels and the plants purple loosestrife and phragmites, Kuesel said.
Latimore said Eurasian watermilfoil is among Michigan's most problematic invasive plants, and zebra mussels and their larvae are another troublesome species.
While the students at the mobile boat wash station aren't able to clean every boat that comes by, the focus instead is on talking with as many people as possible about invasive species and how to prevent their spread.
"Many know about invasive species, but do not know what can be done," Latimore said. "There are easy things you can do as a boater to not be part of the problem."
Ideally, boats should be washed with high-pressure, hot water to clean away any plants or creatures, she said. In the absence of a boat wash station, boats can be physically wiped down or instead left to dry for three days before being used again.
Latimore said this is the fifth summer for the MSU students' mobile boat wash. Since 2014, the program has offered 214 events across Michigan at 107 unique spots, from the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula to Lake St. Clair in the southern part of the state. Students have spoken with nearly 8,000 boaters about invasive species and washed nearly 1,500 boats as a demonstration, according to program statistics.
About half the people that students spoke with were concerned about invasive species and believed boat washing can help reduce their spread. Also, about half said they already wash their boats or only use them in a single body of water, Latimore said.
Meanwhile, the Benzie Conservation District also operates two mobile boat wash stations randomly throughout Benzie, Leelanau and Manistee counties, said Jodi Monteith, an aquatic invasive species educator for the agency. She said they will be demonstrating proper boat-washing techniques Friday at the Lake Ann State Forest Campground and on Saturday at some inland lakes within the boundaries of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Want to host a mobile boat wash?
Lake associations, nonprofit organizations and others can arrange for a mobile boat wash unit to come to their area by contacting Jo Latimore at Michigan State University via email to email@example.com. Scheduling will begin for next summer in February.
Those within Leelanau, Benzie and Manistee counties may also contact the Benzie Conservation District at 231-882-4391 or via email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.