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Corps Awarded $4 Million For Invasive Species Boat Inspection Stations In Columbia Basin
Posted on Friday, March 18, 2016 (PST)

Money to help protect the four Northwest states from an invasion of quagga and zebra mussels --arriving by highway attached to small boats and trailers -- could be available to states as early as mid-year to help pay for the cost of inspection stations.

 

Some $4 million was included in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 2016 budget, according to Jim Ruff of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife staff. Ruff broke the news to the Council at its monthly meeting last week. These funds will match the money provided by the four Northwest states for watercraft inspection and decontamination efforts.

 

However, the Corps’ Northwestern Division staff, which will allocate the funds to help the states, has informed the states that funding is limited in the geographic area in which they can use the money.

 

“The Corps has informed the region we likely will only be able to use these cost-shared funds at watercraft inspection stations that fall within the Columbia River basin,” Ruff said. “That leaves out some of the more crucial border inspection areas at the edge of the four states.”

 

“Still, the region can really use the money and will,” he added.

 

Looking at the inspection stations that are in operation today in the Northwest, of the 48 watercraft inspection stations, just half are within the Columbia River basin, Ruff said.

 

“We need to have the Corps include funding for those other stations at the borders of the states as well,” he reiterated.

 

Oregon has four stations along its border with California, Montana has a number of stations along its eastern border and Idaho has several at its border with Utah.

 

“All of these stations are outside the Columbia River Basin boundary but are vital to protecting the waters of the basin from aquatic invasive species, including quagga and zebra mussels,” Ruff said.

 

The money for the Corps earmarked for invasive species protection was allocated under the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which was passed into law in June 2014. That law requires the money to be cost-shared with the four states in a 50/50 partnership.

 

“The region has been actively working the last few years to get financial assistance to the states,” Ruff said. The parties involved with that work are the Council, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, among others.

 

Combatting invasive species is one of the NPCC’s emerging priorities identified in its 2014 Fish and Wildlife Program for the Columbia/Snake River Basin.

 

Ruff gives much of the credit for obtaining the $4 million Corps appropriation to Idaho Council member Bill Booth and the Council’s Public Affairs Director Mark Walker, Matt Morrison of PNWER and Stephen Phillips of the PSFMC, for their work with Congress to ensure the funds for invasive species would be allocated to the Corps. They worked with U.S. Republican Rep. Mike Simpson, representing Idaho’s Second Congressional District and chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

 

The Corps’ Northwestern Division is developing draft implementation guidelines it will need to guide how it spends the funds. They contain the conditions and criteria for funding to the states and are now at the Corps’ headquarters in Washington D.C. awaiting final approval. Once the implementation guidelines are approved, then the region will need to prepare a general letter report with the Corps which will outline additional details on the allocation and use of these funds.

 

Until the implementation guidelines are approved and released, the Corps has informed the region that the money likely will be limited to inspection stations within the Columbia basin. Congress has started discussions about a new WRRDA bill that could potentially free up future money for inspection stations nearer the state borders, regardless of their proximity to the basin.

 

The Pacific Northwest, including Alaska and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, is the only region in North America unaffected by the zebra and quagga mussel invasions that have devastated ecosystems and local economies. PNWER has estimated the costs of failing to prevent an invasion of invasive mussels could exceed $500 million annually for the four Northwest states and western Canadian provinces.

 

The U.S. Geological Survey has a quagga and zebra mussel distribution map on its website at http://nas.er.usgs.gov/UserImages/current_zm_quag_map.jpg

 

(See CBB, May 17, 2013, “Pacific Northwest ‘Only Place On Continent’ Unaffected By Mussel Invasion; Preventive Strategy Urged” http://www.cbbulletin.com/426624.aspx)

 

The threat of quagga and zebra mussels invading the Northwest is real. Just last week, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stopped a boat at the Ontario, Oregon boat inspection station, finding the boat was infested with quagga mussels. The boat was last used in Lake Havasu, Arizona, which is plagued with the invasive species. The boat inspection station had just opened March 3. The boat was the first fouled vessel found at any inspection station in Oregon in 2016.

 

(See CBB, March 11, 2016, “Checkpoint Just Opened At Oregon Border Intercepts Boat From Arizona Infested With Invasive Mussels,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436205.aspx)

 

Today, only the states are inspecting boats for invasive species. Although the Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation monitor for the mussels, and the Bonneville Power Administration funds some research, they currently do not inspect boats and trailers.

 

A study by PNWER and PSMFC presented to the Council in October called for an even wider net: a perimeter defense to guard against their invasion. Over $13 million is already being spent every year for quagga and zebra mussel prevention in the Pacific Northwest, according to Lisa DeBruyckere of Creative Resource Strategies LLC, one of the researchers responsible for the report.

 

Most of the money is used to fund inspection stations. But she says that the region needs to spend $20 million more to boost inspections and build a database and communications system among states that identifies potentially infected boats traveling from outside the region.

 

Ultimately the goal would also be to have inspection and decontamination stations in highly-infected areas, such as at Lake Powell on the Nevada/Arizona border, she said.

 

(See CBB, October 16, 2015, “Report Calls For Regional Perimeter Defense Strategy To Combat Quagga, Zebra Mussels,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435271.aspx)

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