The Idaho State Department of Agriculture announced that last week that mandatory watercraft inspection stations were opened in early February – the earliest ever – and immediately provided rewards in the effort to block invasive zebra and/or quagga mussels from entering the state.
The program has already intercepted two mussel-fouled boats at the Interstate 90 station near Wallace, Idaho, near the Idaho-Montana state line in the panhandle. The stations are concentrated at the state line and many are open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., seven days a week.
Idaho has had a watercraft inspection program in place since 2009. More than 100,000 boats have been inspected to date. Thirty eight mussel-fouled boats have been intercepted and decontaminated before they launched into Pacific Northwest waters.
Matt Voile, Noxious Weed and Invasive Species manager, said that information collected in past years in interviews with boat haulers indicated that that opening boat inspection stations earlier would be wise. Last year the stations at the Idaho-Montana border and five along Idaho’s southern border opened between March 15 and April 2. This year the Wallace station opened Feb. 3 and the southern Idaho stations on March 1.
The two infested boats identified last month were bound for Washington coastal waters. Idaho officials escorted the boats to Washington, where they were decontaminated, Voile said. Both were being commercially transported.
The program aims to inspect boats that are entering the region from mussel-infested states. Two mussel-fouled boats from the Great Lakes were intercepted the first 12 days of station operation on I-90. That indicates that potentially infested boats are being transported outside of the traditional boating season. That is of concern to the Pacific Northwest states, Idaho officials say.
“Idaho’s watercraft inspection program underscores the importance of preventing these mussels from becoming established in Idaho’s waters,” said Agriculture Director Celia Gould. All of Idaho’s waterbodies have tested negative for these species, but they have been found in waters of other western states, and are causing severe economic and environmental harm in other regions of the country.
“We continue to work with our regional partners to prevent these fouled boats from launching in Pacific Northwest waters. Catching two mussel-fouled boats so early in the season is a real wake up call,” Gould said. “The more the public is educated about these invaders, the more enthusiastic and vigilant they are in joining efforts to keep them out of the Pacific Northwest.”
Boaters should expect inspections and all boaters must stop at the border stations. Watercraft inspectors are looking for high-risk boats that have been in quagga mussel- and zebra mussel-impacted waters such as Lake Mead, Lake Havasu and Lake Pleasant in the Southwest. Although populations have been widespread in the Great Lakes in the Midwest for almost two decades, the mussels were found for the first time west of the Continental Divide in recent years, specifically in parts of Nevada, California, Arizona, Colorado and Utah.
Boaters who have launched in a mussel-infested waterbody in the past 30 days must have an inspection before ytheyou launch in Idaho. For a complete list of infested waters, see: www.invasivespecies.idaho.gov
Boaters entering Idaho can call 1-877-336-8676 to schedule a free inspection.
State officials say it is important that boaters arrive in Idaho with a clean, drained and dry watercraft.
Zebra mussels and quagga mussels are invasive species. They are European in origin and range in size from microscopic to the size of a fingernail, depending on the life stage. They are prolific breeders and attach themselves to hard and soft surfaces, fouling freshwater ecosystems and clogging intake pipes that draw water from infested waterbodies. They cause significant maintenance challenges for raw-water systems, requiring millions of dollars annually to treat.
Most other western states also have initiated prevention programs in an effort to keep invasive zebra and quagga mussels from being introduced via trailered watercraft.
ISDA urges all boaters to take the following steps to prevent the introduction of the mussels to Idaho:
-- inspect all exposed surfaces - small mussels feel like sandpaper to the touch;
-- wash the hull thoroughly, preferably with hot water;
-- remove all plant and animal material;
-- drain all water and dry all areas;
-- drain and dry the lower outboard unit;
-- clean and dry all live wells;
--- empty and dry any buckets;
-- dispose of all bait in the trash and,
-- wait five days and keep watercraft dry between launches into different fresh waters.
For more information about Idaho’s invasive species program go to www.invasivespecies.idaho.gov or call Voile at 208-863-1559.
For more information on efforts to stop the spread of invasive quagga mussels in the Columbia River Basin see CBB, Feb. 10, 2012 “Northwest States Want Tougher Boat Inspections At Lake Mead To Reduce Threat Of Quagga Mussels” http://www.cbbulletin.com/416427.aspx