Collaborating with counties to optimize AIS inspections

April 01, 2019

A model created by MAISRC researchers to optimize watercraft inspection checkpoints to prevent the movement of starry stonewort and zebra mussels has now been pilot-tested with three counties: Crow Wing, Ramsey, and Stearns.

The model — a product of another MAISRC project — incorporates estimates of boater movement among lakes within each county and assesses risk of AIS spread based on boater movement and environmental suitability conditions. The model can be used by counties to allocate their limited inspection resources among various lakes and landings. It can help counties decide how many inspectors to hire, where to station them, even what times of days or days of the week they should be scheduled, for the optimal intervention of AIS.

MAISRC collaborator Bob Haight, a research economist with the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station in St. Paul, has been working directly with counties as they plan their summer budgets and inspection schedules. “What makes this model so helpful is that we can tailor it for each county to directly respond to their needs,” said Haight. “Collaborating directly with counties is mutually beneficial – they tell us nuanced details about their county’s lakes and boater movements, and we use that information to inform and improve the model. It gives both parties buy-in to the process.”

Haight recently partnered with Crow Wing County to incorporate data their boat movement data into the model. They also included multiple public landings per lake in order to create a custom report that recommends the number of inspectors and the best locations to minimize the risk of spreading AIS.

“It’s simply impossible for there to be an inspector at every lake, around the clock,” added Haight. “This model allows counties to make the best decisions possible to minimize the spread of AIS.”