The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conducted a limited pilot survey of boaters to gauge their views on boat decontamination using power washing as a means of preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) with generous support from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
The four basic steps, Inspect, Remove, Drain, and Never Move, are the primary actions for containing the spreading of AIS. But, the Department wants to begin assessing boater responses to portable power-wash decontamination units should they be used in settings where the risk of AIS spread is highest.
This past summer two seasonal employees decontaminated boats with heated, pressurized water at two Lake Michigan boat landings in Door County while boaters were surveyed. Three-quarters of queried boaters accepted the decontamination process and answered the survey. Most commonly boaters said they accepted the offer in order to prevent the spread of AIS.
All boaters said they’d use a decontamination unit again. But, they cautioned that “time” was the primary reason they might skip boat decontamination. Yet, on average, they said they would be willing to spend 45 minutes for decontamination: 22 minutes waiting in line and another 23 minutes for the decontamination process itself. In contrast, an earlier survey of Minnesota boaters found they would wait only 10 minutes. Further, surveyed boaters were willing to pay an average of $6.86 to get their boat decontaminated, while 93% of Minnesota boaters were willing to pay between one and four dollars. Some might interpret these results as Minnesotans being impatient skinflints. But, it’s more likely that a decade of AIS outreach efforts since the Minnesota survey is increasing boater awareness of the importance of AIS problems and prevention measures.
Surveyed boaters expressed confidence (8.6 on a scale of 1-10) that decontamination was effective against AIS spread and should be used at additional boat launches. But, they split on where they should be deployed with half wanting decontamination units at every landing while others favored strategic placement at landings on the Great Lakes and other super-spreaders.
While these preliminary results suggest boaters are willing to use boat decontamination to prevent AIS spread, more needs to be learned in deciding how to expand the use of decontamination and pay for this costlier method, as well as when and where it’s needed.