Watercraft Inspection Program
The Watercraft Inspection Program was created in 1992, in response to legislation proposed by the DNR, Minnesota Lakes Associations, and angling groups.
- To prevent the spread of invasive species within Minnesota through boater education, watercraft inspections and watercraft decontaminations at public water accesses.
In 2011, legislation aimed at strengthening Minnesota's ability to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species was signed into law.
- Inspectors can visually and tactilely inspect water-related equipment including the removal, drainage, decontamination or treatment of water-related equipment to prevent the transportation of aquatic invasive species.
- Inspectors can prohibit the launching or operation of water-related equipment if a person refuses to allow an inspection or doesn't remove water or aquatic invasive species.
- Inspectors can require a watercraft to be decontaminated prior to launching into Minnesota waters.
The DNR has created two levels of authorized inspectors:
- Level one
- Inspect watercraft and deny access if necessary.
- Level two
- All level one authorization and;
- Use decontamination equipment at the access.
See Watercraft Inspection Levels for further information.
The 2016 Watercraft Inspection Season
In 2016, as initiated last year, the Watercraft Inspection Program will be delivered regionally. See DNR Aquatic Invasive Species Contacts for specific staff information. The DNR will be hiring approximately 100 Level 1 Watercraft Inspector Interns who will be trained to inspect watercraft and 46 Level 2 Watercraft Inspectors who will be trained to inspect and decontaminate watercraft. The DNR has 23 decontamination units and will continue to use them at high-use, zebra mussel infested waters. The Level 2 Inspectors and decontamination units will be placed at primarily at zebra mussel infested waters, and some smaller portions of time at destination lakes where boaters travel to following boating at zebra mussel waters and for DNR Enforcement checkpoints on roads near waterbodies. The DNR uses a tier system to determine how many hours of each type a specific access will receive.
For a complete listing of Level 1 DNR goal hours at specific accesses around the state, see 2015 Watercraft Inspection Plan for Allocation of Level 1 Hours .
If you have questions about inspection hours in a specific area please see DNR Aquatic Invasive Species Contacts for specific staff information.
- MNDNR Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Watercraft Inspection Handbook
- Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Volunteer Handbook
What are they? The decontamination units are portable, self contained, high pressure, high heat wash units that allow us decontaminate watercraft at the public water access without allowing any of the wash water to run off.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is this an excuse to do inspections for all sorts of things beyond just AIS?
A: No, inspectors are usually not law enforcement officers and they are looking for AIS only. They are looking in areas of the boat that could contain water or come into contact with the water for possible AIS. If conservation officers or other law enforcement officers perform the inspections, they will be required to deal with violations of state law that they come across even though their primary focus will be AIS.
Q: Do the inspections take a long time or cause big traffic back-ups?
A: No, most inspections are quick and can be completed in less than three minutes; however, if decontamination is required, boaters will be delayed.
Q: Why are watercraft inspected at some locations but not others?
A: Inspectors will be placed at a number of locations across the state based on risk, but there will never be enough money to have inspectors everywhere. That is why it is key that the boaters themselves practice Clean, Drain, and Dry and that they inspect their own boats and report findings to the appropriate persons.
Q: Isn't the spread of zebra and quagga mussels inevitable anyway?
A: No, states that have implemented education and inspection programs have significantly slowed or even stopped the spread of these species. Even if we only slow the spread of mussels, each year they are contained could save us tens to hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money. Also, preventing the spread of zebra and quagga mussels will protect our waters, native wildlife, and fish for that many more years while ongoing research develops tools to control these species.
Q: How are you going to inspect and decontaminate thousands of boats?
A: While we attempt to inspect all watercraft during inspection times at high risk locations, only the boats with obvious signs of aquatic nuisance species—plants, mud, debris, or higher risk standing water, or that have been moored for three or more days, will be decontaminated. On the whole, a relatively small number of boats will be decontaminated.
Q: How do Minnesota’s authorities compare to other states?
A: A number of other states have watercraft inspection and decontamination programs. This table summarizes other AIS authorities and penalties for violations in selected states with watercraft inspection programs.
Local Units of Government who would like to purchase their own Decontamination Unit
The DNR has a state contract for the purchase of decontamination units. Some local units of government will be able to purchase off of this contract. Please see below for the specifications used for the state contract and for information on who may purchase off the state contract and how to do so.
Boaters can find courtesy decontamination units at dozens of locations around the state. The decontamination units and DNR-authorized watercraft inspectors can help you reduce the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species.