Boaters and others who use Iowa’s waterways have had to take a little more time this summer to clean their equipment once the fun on the water is done. A new state law designed to help prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals in waterways began on July first. Kim Bogenschutz oversees the Aquatic Invasive Species program for the Iowa DNR, and says boaters not only have to drain all the water out of boats, they have to take an extra step.

“They have to leave the drain plugs, the valves, or whatever it is that drains the water — they have to leave those open while they drive down the road,” Bogenschutz says. She says boaters should clean off any plants, mud or other material on rafts or innertubes — anything that has been in contact with the water.

“We are asking you to remove everything that is practical while you are still there at the boat ramp. And then if you are going to take your boat out to another water body — either power wash it or let it set out in the sun for five days — and that’ll kill anything that might remain,” according to Bogenschutz.

One of the biggest concerns is the zebra mussel. Bogenschutz says there are only three locations where the zebra mussel has been found in Iowa thus far. She says they can be very destructive to boats, motors, water pipes, and they remove food that native plants and animals need. And the mussels tend to take over and make swimming and other recreation activities difficult.

Bogenschutz says they started trying to make boaters aware of the changes during the Memorial Day weekend and will continue on with those efforts through the summer. She has 20 inspectors in her department and other conservation officers are also working with those who use the lakes and rivers.

“They’re going to be watching for it, and this summer is a learning year for all of us. They will be watching for it, but they are not going to be hunting people down and writing tickets, it’s still going to be an educational summer for us,” Bogenschutz says.

You can be fined $500 for transporting an invasive species, and there is a $75 fine under the new law for not leaving the drain plugs out on your boat while traveling.

Bogenschutz says boaters understand the need to prevent the spread of the invasive species and are good at taking the proper steps once they are educated about the law.