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Report Says Spending Millions On Zebra/Quagga Mussel Prevention ‘Economically Justified’
Posted on Friday, September 06, 2013 (PST)

An Independent Economic Advisory Board “update” released this week indicates that the money spent – an estimated $5 million per year from a variety of sources -- in attempts to ward off an invasion of non-native zebra and quagga mussels into the Columbia River basin is money well spent.

“We don’t know what would happen if we weren’t doing it,” according to Colorado State University’s Roger Mann, an IEAB member. With no line of defense infestations could well have already occurred.

The Independent Economic Analysis Board was established in November 1996 by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to aid in the understanding economic issues associated with the Council's fish and wildlife program, which is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration as mitigation for impacts caused by the Federal Columbia River Power System. BPA markets power generated at FCRPS hydro projects, including facilities constructed on the mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers.

The IEAB is composed of eight economists whose expertise is focused on improving the cost-effectiveness analysis of fish and wildlife recovery measures funded through the program. The panel also provides economic advice on analysis of other fish, wildlife and energy issues at the Council's request.

A 2010 IEAB report http://www.nwcouncil.org/fw/ieab/ieab2013-2/

estimates that roughly $100 million would be required to maintain infrastructure operations for irrigation, fish passage and propagation, navigation and other Columbia-Snake river functions in response to an invasive mussel invasion such as infestations that have occurred in the Great Lakes and other eastern waterways, as well as the southwest part of the country.

Those estimates remain valid, Mann said this week.

The report released this week http://www.nwcouncil.org/fw/ieab/ieab2013-2/

by the NPCC is an update of that IEAB report 2010-1 titled “Economic Risk Associated with the Potential Establishment of Zebra and Quagga Mussels in the Columbia River Basin.”

“Overall, the information provided in the updated report suggests that recent state actions to augment ongoing regional prevention efforts are justified economically and should be continued, if not expanded” the update report says.

“Controllable factors are prevention, detection, rapid response, control and management programs. The expected value of damages changes if any of these controllable factors change. This framework can be used to evaluate when any investment in a controllable factor might be justified, the new report says. “If the cost of the controllable factors is less than the reduction in the expected value of damages, then the controllable factors are economically justified.

“If there is close to a zero probability of an introduction, however, then the expected value of damages is close to zero and there is no potential economic justification for changing any controllable factors. Similarly, if there is a small potential for survival, reproduction and establishment, then there is also a small value to prevention, detection or rapid response actions.

“Consider the potential economics of an introduction in the upper Snake River Basin. Evidence presented in the previous report and this report suggest that mussels will spread into the lower Snake River and will have substantial economic costs for water users, hydropower, fish passage, hatcheries, as well as substantial ecological impacts in the Hells Canyon and downstream in the lower Snake River, and some economic costs will extend into the mainstem Columbia River.

“Suppose, for example, that the annual expected ‘damages caused by the established population’ is $100 million. Without any prevention, detection or rapid response efforts, the introduction and non-detection probabilities …, even within a short time frame, are probably close to 1.

“Many infested boats are being intercepted, the ability to detect and eradicate an introduced population is probably poor, and water quality conditions in the upper Snake River appear to be very favorable for establishment.

“Suppose that $5 million annually is currently being spent on prevention efforts. If these efforts reduce the annual chance of an introduction by 50 percent, then the subsequent reduction in expected value of damages is about $50 million annually, or ten times the prevention costs. In this example, the existing level of prevention appears to be economically justified. An analytical approach similar to that developed here could be used to allocate available funds to the most beneficial program elements,” the report says.

“Since 2010, a number of events have led to increasing concern about the probability of zebra or quagga mussels becoming established in the basin,” according to the new report.

-- More boats fouled with mussels are being detected at state operated watercraft inspection stations. Most of those boats are traveling from infested waterways in the Midwest and Souhtwest. In 2009, 2010, and 2011, Idaho recorded 3, 8, and 25 boats with mussels. In 2012, 57 mussel-fouled boats were detected, even though the number of boats inspected was about the same as the previous year (ISDA 2012). A total of 109 mussel-infested boats were found during more than 106,000 inspections in the four Northwest states in 2012.

-- Research suggests that boat owners are not highly effective in cleaning their own boats (Rothlisberger et al. 2010). This suggests that interception and effective cleaning should help reduce the chance of introductions.

-- A recent study found that adult quagga mussels could survive in mainstem Columbia Basin water, suggesting that the low calcium content of these waters may not be as much of a limit on mussel survival as previously thought (Sytsma and Adair, 2013).

-- Council staff have obtained and summarized water quality data from selected sites in western Montana. These data, which were not obtained for the 2010 IEAB report, indicate calcium conditions that would likely be favorable for mussel establishment, growth and reproduction.

The report says that prevention efforts at the state level might be improved by better enforcement, expanded inspections, and applied research.

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