With Feb. 22-28 declared Invasive Species Awareness Week by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that a new watercraft inspection Station will open near Cle Elum in mid-March.
The station is located just off Exit 80 on Interstate 90 and will focus on inspecting watercraft travelling eastbound into the central Columbia River basin. This new inspection station will enhance WDFW’s efforts to combat Aquatic Invasive Species and protect the central portion of the Columbia River from non-native, fast-spreading species like zebra and quagga mussels.
“Eastbound I-90 is one of the most heavily traveled routes for out-of-state watercraft entering into the Basin,” said WDFW Police Sgt. Pam Taylor. ”The location was strategically selected for the ability to intercept watercraft bound for the basin that utilize I-5 entering Washington from Oregon and heading northbound, and those entering Washington from Canada heading southbound.”
More than 200 invasive species are known to be present in Washington. The state’s economy, recreation, values, culture, and native species are threatened by these damaging plants and animals. For example, hydroelectric dams and irrigation infrastructure would be at great risk should invasive quagga or zebra mussels become established in Washington’s waters.
The Northwest is the last region in the United States that remains mussel-free. The projected cost of controlling a Zebra/Quagga mussel infestation in the Pacific Northwest if they were to become established here is $500 million annually.
All watercraft (from powerboats to paddleboards) are required by law to stop for a quick check at watercraft inspection stations when initially passing into Washington from another state or country.
“With the volume of watercraft crossing through the state in the Cle Elum area, this new check station is a big victory in the fight against aquatic invasive species,” said Capt. Eric Anderson, with WDFW Police. “We are extremely grateful to the Bureau of Reclamation for seeing the importance of this station and providing funding for it. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without their partnership.”
More information on Aquatic Invasive Species is available on the WDFW website.
and a list of Invasive Species Awareness Week events can be found on the Washington Invasive Species Council site.
Earlier this month, zebra mussels, an invasive species not found in Oregon, were found attached to a boat being hauled from Texas to Canada.
ODFW technicians at the Ashland watercraft inspection station spotted the mussels on the boat’s motor and other areas of the watercraft and performed a hot wash decontamination to kill and remove mussels from the vessel.
By law, all watercraft entering Oregon are required to be inspected when the stations are open. These free inspections take about five to 10 minutes. If aquatic invasive species are discovered, the vessel will be decontaminated on site.
Anyone hauling a watercraft (motorized or non-motorized) who does not stop could receive a $110 fine for bypassing an open inspection station.
So far, this year technicians have inspected 280 watercraft; five of those watercraft intercepted were found with some type of aquatic invasive species such as Eurasian watermilfoil, quagga or zebra mussel.
In 2020, the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program inspected 23,044 watercraft and found and decontaminated 12 vessels for zebra or quagga and 264 vessels with other types of bio-fouling.
“Currently Oregon and the Pacific Northwest is free of zebra or quagga mussels. If this boat had launched anywhere in Oregon or elsewhere, it could have introduced and started the spread of zebra mussels to waterbodies like the Columbia River,” said Rick Boatner, ODFW Invasive Species and Wildlife Integrity Supervisor.
“Please remember to always clean, drain and dry any type of watercraft, be it a yacht or a paddleboard,” added Boatner.
For the upcoming 2021 season, watercraft inspection stations located at Brookings, Klamath Falls, Lakeview and Umatilla will be open the first week of May through early September. The Ashland and Ontario stations, which are located northbound on Interstate-5 and westbound on I-84, receive the program’s most traffic and are open daily, year-round.
For information about inspection stations and permits, visit: https://myodfw.com/articles/waterway-access-and-aquatic-invasive-species-permits
Waterway Access Permits are required for paddlecraft 10 feet and longer and an out-of-state aquatic invasive species permit is required for motorized boats operating in Oregon waterways.