Posts tagged: quagga mussels
At the recent Western Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter brandished a license plate that had been soaked for a year in Lake Mead and was encrusted with invasive quagga mussels, asking Interior Secretary Sally Jewell when the Obama Administration would get inspection and contamination stations up and running at the infested lake to help halt the spread of the invasive species. BSU political science professor Justin Vaughn was in the audience, and reported that Jewell made it clear she’s aware of the issue and said she’d look into it; his full report in the Blue Review is online here. Vaughn reported that Otter offered Jewell the mussel-encrusted license plate to take back to Washington, D.C., but she declined – it’s illegal to transport invasive species.
Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, soaked 500 of the license plates in the infested lake for displays to help make the point about the threat from the mussels, which haven't yet invaded Idaho. “We'll lose so much if these get into our region,” he said, adding that he was “thrilled” to see the issue take center stage so dramatically at the WGA conference.
Tens of thousands of boat inspections later, Idaho and Washington have come through another boating season without getting invasive quagga or zebra mussels established in either state's waters - but there were plenty of close calls. Idaho intercepted 24 mussel-contaminated boats entering the state, and Washington decontaminated 20. While most were coming from the heavily infested Great Lakes region, nearly half were Northwest-bound from federal waters in Arizona and Nevada - and that has officials in both states concerned.
“Mussel-fouled boats continue to leave infested waters without proper decontamination,” Idaho Department of Agriculture Celia Gould said. “The federal government needs to do a better job of containing infestations in their waters and preventing the spread of these species to the Pacific Northwest states.”
Allen Pleus, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the good news is this: “To our knowledge, there are no established or known detections of zebra or quagga mussels in any Columbia River Basin locations, including British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. So we're the last great water basin without these species in the United States.” You can read my full story here from Sunday's Spokesman-Review.
In the recently concluded boat-inspection season, Idaho reports that it inspected more than 47,000 watercraft and intercepted 24 that were carrying invasive quagga or zebra mussels into or through the state. Nearly half came from federal waters in Nevada and Arizona, the state Department of Agriculture reports. State Ag Director Celia Gould said, “The Lower Colorado River system is known to be heavily infested with quagga mussels, and we know that many Pacific Northwest boats spend extended periods of time there. … Boats that have been in those waters are considered extremely high-risk.”
The tiny, fast-multiplying mussels haven't been found in Idaho waters yet, and the state wants to keep it that way. Gould called on federal officials to do more to stop the mussels from leaving already-infested federal waters like Lake Mead and Lake Havasu. “Mussel-fouled boats continue to leave infested waters without proper decontamination,” she said. “The federal government needs to do a better job of containing infestations in their waters and preventing the spread of these species to the Pacific Northwest states. We need all hands on deck as we work to protect our waters.”
People with watercraft returning from those infested areas can arrange for an inspection by calling the Department of Agriculture at (877) 336-8676; they are also advised to clean, drain and dry their boats, including washing the hull thoroughly with hot water and waiting five days between launches into different waters.
A new report from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council estimates that it could cost $100 million a year to fight invasive quagga and zebra mussels once they make it into the Columbia River Basin, which echoes alarms that have been sounded for the past three years by Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, about potential costs to Idaho if the mussels make it here. Click below for a full story on the council’s report from AP reporter Nick Geranios in Spokane.
The first invasive mussels have been found on a boat entering Idaho at a checkpoint on U.S. Highway 93 in Twin Falls County near the Nevada state line, the Times-News reports. The 20-foot pontoon boat, which was headed to Cascade from Lake Havasu, Nev., was impounded by authorities and decontaminated, a process that took an hour and a half and incurred no cost to the boat owner, a Donnelly resident. Last year, Idaho checkpoints conducted 18,450 boat inspections and found two confirmed cases of invasive quagga or zebra mussels, plus an additional unconfirmed report; last year’s mussels were found at North Idaho checkpoints; click here for the full story, including video, from Times-News reporter Pat Marcantonio.
Idaho’s state Department of Agriculture plans to open its first boat-inspection stations of the season tomorrow, near Bruneau where highways 51 and 78 intersect, and near Marsing on Highway 95. An additional check station on U.S. 93 just north of the Nevada state line will open on Saturday; all will operate seven days a week. The idea is to check all watercraft and equipment - motorized or not - for invasive quagga or zebra mussels. The department said in an announcement, “It is important that boaters arrive in Idaho with a clean, drained and dry watercraft.”
The fast-reproducing invasive mussels can be carried from one waterway to another on boats, in live wells and buckets and elsewhere; the tiny mussels “feel like sandpaper to the touch” when carried on the hull of a boat, the department said. It advises washing watercraft thoroughly before bringing them into Idaho, preferably with hot water; draining all water; and letting watercraft dry for five days between launches. Additional check stations will open in North Idaho and elsewhere in the coming weeks; for more information, contact the department at (208) 332-8686.
When Idaho boaters register their boats for the next boating season, they’ll no longer have to purchase a separate invasive species sticker – it’ll all be combined into a single registration sticker. “It saves a tremendous amount of money,” said Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, adding, “That’s what the public wanted, too – they didn’t want another sticker on their boat.” Owners of boats registered out of state or non-motorized boats still will have to purchase the separate invasive species sticker, which raises money for the state’s efforts to keep invasive quagga and zebra mussels and other dangerous critters out of the state’s waterways. But for Idaho-registered boats, the invasive species program will be included within the regular boat registration process, and boaters will receive notice before the first of the year.
Anderson said this year sales of the invasive species stickers raised about $750,000, but the state had hoped to collect $1 million from registered boaters alone. Tying the process into boat registration should improve that, he said. “Next year, we will be much more successful on having the money up-front.” You can read more here in my column from Sunday’s paper.
Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, says Idaho’s efforts to keep invasive quagga and zebra mussels from getting into the state’s waterways appear to be succeeding. “We were very successful this year,” he told the Legislature’s interim committee on energy, environment and technology. “We seem to have avoided any contact with these critters in our waterways this year.” Seventeen sites were set up statewide to inspect boats coming into the state, and Idaho required boaters to buy a special sticker to fund the anti-mussel efforts. “It’s absolutely paramount that we stay diligent - we’re going to have to do more,” Anderson said. “We have been successful - this is like trying to prevent a terrorist act. Professionals out there feel that we have really dodged a bullet.”
One boat that was chased through three states actually was launched in the Spokane River, Anderson said, but extensive monitoring followed and no contamination was found. “I was concerned because I just live downriver, just downstream from that,” said Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene. He said the launch took place at Blackwell Island. Anderson and officials said the boat turned out to have been out of the water long enough before its Idaho launch for any invasive critters on it to have died.
New invasive species stickers that are now required on all boats that launch in Idaho, motorized or not, have sparked such demand that the state Parks Department is now reporting big delays in getting all the orders filled. “The sheer number of orders that IDPR is receiving is preventing the 7-10 day turnaround originally projected,” said Renee Iverson, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation registration manager. “IDPR is working diligently to process orders as quickly as possible.” The parks department has notified law enforcement about the delays, and people who have ordered stickers but not yet received them can show their receipts from online orders or copies of checks as proof that they’ve complied. The stickers cost $10 for boats registered in Idaho, $20 for those registered elsewhere, and $5 for non-motorized boats, which aren’t required to register. Only inflatables less than 10 feet long are exempt.
The stickers are meant to fund Idaho’s fight to keep invasive species including quagga and zebra mussels out of the state. Click below to read the full announcement from parks; click here to order a sticker.
Swung by the Idaho parks & rec office and purchased my invasive species sticker, which I then plastered onto my sailboard. Now we’ll see if it sticks. They were plenty busy, but it was a breeze picking up the $5 sticker (for non-motorized craft; Idaho-registered boats are $10, those registered elsewhere are $20). There was no wait. Phones were ringing off the hook, and parks workers were advising folks that if they order their stickers on the Internet and keep their receipts, they can show those to the cops over the holiday weekend and they won’t get a ticket, even if they haven’t gotten their stickers yet. Here’s a link to the full info about Idaho’s new boat-sticker program to raise money to fight invasive species, including keeping fast-spreading quagga and zebra mussels out of the state.
Starting in about a month, anyone pulling a boat into Idaho will have to pull over at a port of entry for inspection and possible decontamination, in an effort to keep invasive quagga and zebra mussels out of the state. Top state officials approved emergency measures today including nearly a dozen such inspection stations around the state, with one to be at Huetter on I-90 between Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. The $1.8 million in emergency measures also will include a statewide billboard campaign, education and outreach, signs on highways and boat ramps, and monitoring and enforcement. But most of the money will be spent on inspection and decontamination, to stop the fast-spreading, thumbnail-sized shellfish from turning Idaho’s lakes, reservoirs and beaches into shell-encrusted wastelands. That’s been the fate of numerous sites around the Great Lakes in Michigan, and the mussels in the past year have been spotted as far west as Utah and Nevada.
“We’re trying to get some of this put together as soon as we can, before we get too far into the boating season,” Lloyd Knight, administrator of the plant industries division at the state Department of Agriculture, told the state Board of Examiners today. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who chairs the Board of Examiners, said the emergency measures are warranted. “The estimate right now is about $92 million bucks if we do nothing and just allow this very aggressive species to come in,” he said. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.