Zebra mussels are becoming a problem in the Red River.
This spring, for whatever reason, they just went ‘boom,’” State Game and Fish director Terry Steinwand told the interim Water Topics committee. He says it appears the zebra mussels came from Minnesota’s Pelican Lake, through the Otter Tail River. He says the invasive species has been found all the way into Canada.
Steinwand says Game and Fish had to adopt an emergency rule to help prevent the spread of the mussels to other bodies of water.
"We had administrative rules that said to boaters, you have to empty your live well when you leave a water body," Steinwand said. "We went one step further, saying you can't even take your bait away from the Red River. You have to pull your plug out of your boat. You have to drain it -- meaning no water out of the Red River area at all."
Steinwand says the Legislature’s Administrative Rules committee will get a look at that new rule. And he says the Department may go even further.
"We've had comment that said, 'Why don't you require having the drain plug pulled statewide,'" said Steinwand. "It actually would be easier for enforcement to say, 'You have to pull your drain plug' to all boaters."
Steinwand told the Committee – the Department is looking at expanding its roadside checks – to make sure the boats have been drained.
"In fact, we're looking internally right now to see if we can provide the funding at some of the higher risk areas," Stenwand said. "Areas such as Devils Lake, areas down by Ashley and Wishek, where there's a lot of non-resident traffic. If we can find the internal salary dollars, we're going to hire temporary workers to help our enforcement with check stations, plus have a roaming check area."
At least one lawyer has questioned whether the Department has the authority for those roadside checks.
"Until the courts tell us we're doing it wrong, or we shouldn't be doing it, we're going to continue to do these," said Stenwand.
State fisheries director Greg Power says the plan is to have the rule requiring drain plugs to be pulled from boats leaving any North Dakota body of water in place by April first.