Suppose you own a beautiful house in an area where, you’ve recently learned, there is a substantial risk of burglary or vandalism.
You can’t be there all the time. So to protect your place during times when you’re gone, you hire a couple of 19 year-olds to watch over it — maybe four hours a day on weekends, and only in summer, because that’s all you can afford. Or, you do nothing and just take your chances.
That is the position our lakes are in when it comes to invasive species and the monitoring of boats coming to the landings. That’s appalling, given the risk of severe and long-lasting consequences.
Just one irresponsible person towing a boat could introduce spiny water flea, zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, or some other destructive pest. Clean Boats Clean Waters education is great, but no one with any sense believes that alone will suffice.
The landing at my lake (semi-private, low traffic) is unprotected except for some aged signage. At a couple of my favorite fishing lakes, I’ve never seen a CBCW volunteer.
DNR funds for monitoring landings are limited, and rare is the lake association that can support full-time monitoring. So what’s the solution? Quite possibly it includes technology.
A system call I-LIDS (Internet Landing Installed Device Sensor) provides a measure of protection. Boaters see signs telling them the landing is monitored and describing how to inspect and clean their boat and trailer. At the same time a video system looks for aquatic species attached and watches how the owner cleans the watercraft.
Authorized users then can log into a website to get statistics on landing activity and play back video of the launches. The system, from Environmental Sentry Protection (ESP), has the advantage of being full-time.
What are the objections to such a system? Well, it’s a significant investment. Some people are adverse, in general, to being video-recorded. There’s also concern in some quarters that technology at landings would detract from their natural aesthetic appeal.
But how much water do these arguments hold? The cost-benefit ratio tilts heavily in favor of always-on landing monitoring — just look at the calamities that befall some lakes when invasives come in. As for privacy, isn’t being video monitored a small sacrifice to make to help protect the Northwoods’ most valuable resources. As for aesthetics, who goes to a landing to experience its beauty?
How does your lake group monitor the boat landings? Would you consider technology such as I have described? It’s worth serious thought. Contaminated boats are out there. Odds are your lake’s landing is like an unlocked, open door, a welcome mat for intruders. When looked at that way, a little technology seems like a worthy investment.
Next, some enterprising young mechanical engineer needs to invent a portable pressure washer for cleaning boats, able to run off a car-based power inverter and use lake water — price under $200 and affordable to boat owners and a standard part of new-boat packages. That would provide an extra measure of safety for our lakes.
Ted Rulseh resides on Birch Lake in Harshaw and is an advocate for lake protection and improvement. His Lakeland Times and Northwoods River News columns are the basis for a book, “A Lakeside Companion,” published by The University of Wisconsin Press. Ted may be reached at [email protected]