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Minnesota Boaters Urged To Fend Off New Invasive Plant

MINNETONKA, Minn. (WCCO) -- After coming out of the water at Gray's Bay, Brent Schlosser knows the routine: clean, drain and dry, the new mantra for Minnesota boaters.

"If I see anything clinging to the trailer or boat, I can remove it easily," he said.

Stopping the spread of zebra mussels and Eurasian milfoil has been a priority for DNR officials in recent years.

However, there's a new hitchhiker for Minnesota boaters to worry about -- starry stonewort.

It's a plant-like algae that spreads into a tangled web of dense mats, choking the life out of lakes.

Because so little is known about how starry stonewort spreads, the University of Minnesota's Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center is monitoring its growth.

"It's concerning when there's a new nonnative species that appears to be spreading," said Dan Larkin, the lead researcher at the Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. "We've seen conditions in Minnesota where it can grow quite densely."

Lake Koronis near Paynesville was first infested in late 2015. It's now confirmed in eight lakes in these five Minnesota counties.

Just a tiny fragment of the plant on a boat trailer, propeller or livewell can spread it further.

"So people should be very careful as they are leaving lakes with starry stonewort," Larkin said.

Because starry stonewart is so new to the state, it's unclear how widespread it is.

Later this summer, researchers will recruit volunteers to examine lakeshores to identify any new infestations.

As bad as milfoil is, some say starry stonewort has the potential to be even worse.

For more information on starry stonewort, click here.

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