AIS Boat Inspections at Lake Vermilion Expand to Private Resorts

Lake Vermilion in St Louis County is a popular destination for fishermen and recreational boaters. About 16,000 boats from all over the Midwest launch at 17 public and 20+ private accesses each year.

As the Vermilion Lake Association (VLA) looked closely at the level of risk posed by boats entering Lake Vermilion, they found a disproportionate number of boats from out-of-state lakes and from Minnesota infested waters coming to Vermilion’s private accesses.

“It’s clear our resort, campground and marina business partners are, indeed, on the front lines of the AIS battle,” said Jeff Lovgren, VLA AIS Program Coordinator.

Many resorts began actively inspecting incoming boats in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, the VLA and its partner North St Louis Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) expanded existing projects to further help their resort partners combat that threat. “We’re helping to train dock attendants to inspect boats, we’re providing a per-boat financial stipend to help resorts offset inspection costs, and we’re offering DNR-trained inspectors to help during the chaotic Saturday afternoon cabin change-over,” continued Lovgren.

In 2021, North St Louis SWCD will consolidate Vermilion’s decontamination support at a single site at the lake’s busiest public access – Hoodoo Point N. This is an efficiency move, allowing one trained decontamination operator to cover both the launch ramp and, whenever needed, the decontamination station. Decontamination is needed infrequently, but when it’s needed, there is no substitute. The station will support inspectors at all public and resort accesses lake wide.

“Our work at private and public accesses is not just about inspections,” said Lovgren. “We view this as an unequalled opportunity to get the AIS message to boat operators to help them help Lake Vermilion. Our inspectors show boat operators how to self-inspect their boat, making sure it’s clean and dry, leaving all water behind.”

Funding for the VLA AIS program is provided by a grant from St Louis County’s AIS Prevention Program.

For additional information about Lake Vermilion AIS prevention activities, visit:

Lake of the Woods Draft TMDL under review

The Lake of the Woods Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study that started in 2015 is now in its final phase of internal review, a public comment period and final approval by USEPA.  The TMDL study addresses the nutrient impairment of Minnesota’s portion of the Lake of the Woods, which does not meet water quality standards for total phosphorus and Chlorophyll-a concentrations (related to algae blooms) and Secchi disk depth (transparency).  Phosphorus (P) is the focus of this study because it drives a wide range of biological responses in the lake that affect beneficial uses such as drinking, swimming, and aquatic recreation. Ongoing phosphorus reduction efforts are a management priority in both Minnesota and Canada.

This TMDL quantifies P reductions that are necessary to satisfy applicable lake total phosphorus standards and provides measurable benchmarks to gauge future progress in achieving reductions required to reduce nuisance algal blooms and achieve designated beneficial uses.

If you are interested in reading the draft TMDL document, it can be found at or call one of the following individuals:

Mike Hirst, Lake of the Woods SWCD, 218-634-1842 x4

Cary Hernandez, MPCA, 218-846-8124

Julie Blackburn, RESPEC. 651-305- 2272

Also be sure to visit http:// and click on the ‘projects’ tab for more information.

Watershed Information Featured in Local Restaurants

Restaurant patrons had some reading material and fun activities for their kids the past few summers at several establishments that agreed to use paper placements designed specifically for the Rainy-Lake of the Woods watershed. A colourful front page with interesting facts about the watershed and its geography, facts about Aquatic Invasive Species and a number of water stewardship tips was designed to help the public understand more about the watershed in which they live. On the back page, puzzles, word searches and colouring is provided for children to keep them busy while they wait for their meal to arrive. With a network of volunteers and partners at the ready, most of the 5,000 placemats generously printed by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency were distributed to 23 locations across the binational watershed; not just at restaurants, but at B&Bs, resorts, the Ely Blueberry Festival, cottage association meetings and tourist centres. The remainder will be distributed throughout the winter and spring. If you know of a restaurant that may be interested, please do not hesitate to contact Kelli Saunders at

Lake Associations

Lake Associations are the heart of stewardship!  Our watershed benefits from having over 40 within its boundaries, teeming with citizen scientists and lake lovers who are passionate about the health of the ecosystem – see if there is one near you!

Each lake association has a unique focus and membership, but many have a common goal of protecting and understanding water quality.  For the past four years, the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation, along with its partners, have hosted an annual Binational Lake Association Network Event for this watershed, drawing association members together across the border.  Association members have gone back to their communities with fresh ideas and new contacts.

The Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations launched “Lake Associations,” filmed and produced by Chelsie Xavier-Blower as part of the Environmental Visual Communication program, a joint initiative of Fleming College and the Royal Ontario Museum – to find out the benefits of lake associations, check it out at

Want to know more? Take a tour of the lake associations in this basin – where they are, who they are, what they do:

Map Tour of Lake Associations.

Ontario Lake Partner Program

Hundreds of people like you who care about water quality in their own backyards are volunteering their time to collect water quality data across Ontario, many right here in the Rainy-Lake of the Woods watershed.  If you would like to be one of them, read on!

The Lake Partner Program is Ontario’s volunteer-based, water-quality monitoring program, run through the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Park’s Dorset Environmental Science Centre (DESC). The program began in 1996 in partnership with the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations (FOCA) and the Lake of the Woods District Property Owners’ Association (LOWDPOA).

In 2016, almost 650 volunteer lake stewards monitored total phosphorus, calcium and water clarity in 550 inland lakes in Ontario at over 850 sampling locations. In the Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed, approximately 60 volunteers monitor total phosphorus and water clarity in almost 30 lakes at over 60 sampling locations. Volunteers collect lake water samples and return them, postage paid, to DESC.

Total phosphorus and calcium analyses are performed in the DESC Water Chemistry Laboratory. The resulting data are used by members of the public, partner agencies, government and academic researchers and private consultants to assess and report on water quality in lakes across Ontario.  These data are published each January on the provincial Lake Partner Program webpage.  To register for the program or learn more