Boat dock owners have a chance to be ruthless adversaries in the epic war to rid our nation's waterways of aquatic invasive species. To fight well, you must be aware of the problem, know how to identify the enemy, and understand how to maintain and clean your boat dock and lift.
Invasive species are sneaky and expensive.
Aquatic invasive species come in all sizes, from microscopic invaders to toads and fish. Larger species are often introduced to a waterway when they're tiny babies attached to wading boots, anchors, and hulls. Other species are brought in from emptied ballast tanks or bilge pumps that are contaminated with living matter from infected lakes and ports.
A tiny spot that looks like mildew or a small bit of a plant root is all you need to start a mussel infestation or an enormous, choking patch of aquatic weeds. Once a small pond or lake is contaminated, drastic measures including completely draining the body of water may be necessary.
Invasive snails, fish, and plants are problems in bodies of water and coastal areas around the nation, from North Dakota to Texas and from California to New York. Nationwide, efforts to control and eradicate invasive species cost $137 billion annually, a figure which doesn't take into account costs to homeowners, marinas, and tourist-related businesses.
Know the species you must battle.
Each region of the U.S. has its own individual issues. Zebra mussels and Asian carp are widespread problems across the country while Asian Shore Crab are primarily bothering the New England and Mid-Atlantic seaboard states.
Check with the online databases and local officials in your area to find out which plants and animals you should be looking out for when you inspect your dock and lift. Many lake and coastal areas host informative workshops where they teach participants how to identify aquatic invasive species that trouble the local waterways.
When local officials and research universities receive timely reports on invasive species in the area, it helps them track and monitor the progress of their efforts or failure. Be aware of the agency to whom you report the invasive species you do find.
"Drain, scrub, and dry" are the cleanup rules.
Every dock owner, no matter where you are, should learn how to regularly inspect and clean your dock to help stop the invaders. Some areas will inspect your dock for you while other areas may impose a fine if you don't keep your boat and dock clean.
You can hire a professional (such as one from SteMic Enterprises Inc) to do the work for you, or DIY as follows:
- If possible, lift your dock and completely drain it if necessary.
- Inspect all areas and all surfaces for contamination.
- Scrub down surfaces to remove anything you see attached or growing to the dock or supports.
- Rinse off the dock after removing contaminants.
- Check underwater supports for contamination and clean if necessary.
- Inspect shoreline area to determine the presence of invasive plants.
- Consult lift manufacturer for approved methods to inspect and clean boat lift.
For very stubborn invasives, there are chemicals and bio-agents on the market, but these should be used only by professionals and only in extreme circumstances. Heat treatments and freezing are also some methods that have been used for tougher invasives. If you do a regular inspection and cleaning of your dock and lift, no harsh treatments should be necessary.
You will be held liable in some jurisdictions if you are found to have introduced a harmful species to a body of water. If you move a dock, let it dry in the sun for a full 3 weeks before moving it to a new body of water to avoid any such fines.
A small, insignificant creature can destroy a lake's biodiversity or foul a coastal region's shoreline. The battle against invasive aquatic species is an ongoing war made up of many tiny battles. Fight well and fight hard by keeping your dock and lift clean and invasive-free.