5/18/2019 7:30:00 AM Lake associations seek county
support for I-LIDS technology
Jacob Friede Of The Lakeland Times
The boat launches of Vilas County are the frontline in the battle against Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS). Hundreds of both paid and volunteer Clean Boats Clean Waters inspectors spend countless hours in the summer patrolling landings throughout the Northwoods, educating boaters about AIS, reminding them to inspect their boats, and helping them decontaminate their watercraft.
But inspectors cannot always be there. Funding and the amount of volunteers are limited, and therefore a lot of time goes by when landings are unregulated, leaving the lakes vulnerable to AIS transportation.
One solution to this problem is video surveillance, such as Internet Landing Installed Device Sensors, or I-LIDS. I-LIDS, manufactured by Environmental Sentry Protection of Maple Grove, Minn., are surveillance cameras, similar to trail cameras, which are tripped by the motion of a boat or vehicle approaching. Once activated, the camera, angled toward the bottom of the boat, can see if AIS is present and record the actions of the boater.
The recordings can be viewed by authorized users remotely through the internet. Signage, and sometimes an audio message, at the entrance to a launch is used to inform boaters that surveillance is for AIS prevention.
Due to the benefits I-LIDS offer, such as enabling a constant launch patrol, some area lake associations hoped this year to place cameras on landings currently on Northern Highlands-American Legion State Forest (NHAL) managed land, but they have had their grant applications to help fund the technology denied.
In response, at last Thursday's Vilas County Land and Water Conservation committee meeting, Richard Jenks of the Boulder Junction Lake Alliance, presented a letter to the committee in support of surveillance technology which he hoped would be signed by chairman Jay Verhulst on behalf of the committee and then sent to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) secretary designee Preston Cole.
Stressing the immediate threat of AIS to the environment and economy of Vilas County, the letter was a warning cry and rally call to arms against AIS invasion and it asked that effective technology, like I-LIDS, be brought into the fight.
Jenks participated in drafting the letter with members of lake associations from St. Germain, Plum Lake, Boulder Junction, and Arbor Vitae.
"We're the group that is, at this point, most concerned about the ability to implement new technologies that may be desirable," Jenks said. "So the bottom line is we're asking for the county's support for the lake associations and lake residents to implement technologies."
Craig Dalton, NHAL property manager for the DNR, explained the grant denial "was not a condemnation of (I-LIDS) use, but reflected the Department's desire to gather a bit more information relative to their effectiveness and also relative to the acceptance of the technology by the public that uses the NHAL-SF."
"As such, additional feedback will be collected this year and the towns involved will continue to work with both grant and State Forest staff to determine suitability in the future," he said. "Planning is in progress for an additional questionnaire by Clean Boats Clean Water crews and comment boards at the current NHAL-SF landings with cameras."
At last month's meeting, the committee heard testimony from Plum Lake Association president John Richter about that organization's experience with I-LIDS technology. Plum Lake currently has I-LIDS on some of its landings. Richter praised their effectiveness and said it was noticeable from the video feeds that people paid attention to being on camera and therefore they made sure to follow AIS inspection protocol.
"It demonstrates the modification of behavior which is what we get out of Clean Boats Clean Waters people when they're there." Richter said. "Unfortunately the Clean Boats Clean Water people are only there, maximum, 15 percent of daylight hours. For us that's not protection, that's more of an educational program and that's how the DNR has always looked at it. We were interested more in protection and having something that reminded people that they have an obligation. We think it's very effective from that standpoint."
Cathy Higley, lake conservation specialist for Vilas County, pointed out that though I-LIDS may be effective as a reminder, they are limited as far as educating unaware boaters on how to properly inspect their watercraft and identify AIS.
"People need to know what the laws are and what they need to do to clean off their boats and drain everything," Higley said. "If they're not familiar enough, I-LIDS may not be enough to make sure they're following those best practices. It should be something that is used when people are very familiar with what they need to do."
Still, in light of Richter's positive review, the letter in support of video surveillance was supported by the committee, though they wanted to make changes to the verbiage.
The official direction of the committee was to continue refining the letter for approval at next month's meeting.
Jacob Friede may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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