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Boat inspections begin in Idaho to deter mussels

WEISER, Idaho — Eight of 18 planned boat inspection sites in Idaho are open in an attempt to prevent invasive quagga and zebra mussels from entering the state.

The mussels reproduce and spread rapidly, clogging machinery and water pipes and destroying aquatic ecosystems.

Lloyd Knight of the Idaho Department of Agriculture said inspection sites are focusing on boats coming into Idaho from other states.

Weiser and Lewiston will see the most local traffic, Knight told the Idaho Statesman.

Idaho requires every boat on specific roads to stop at the inspection stations to be checked for potential infestations and cleaned off before they enter Idaho lakes or rivers.

Gary Sparks of Nyssa, Ore., stopped at an inspection station near Weiser to have his boat checked.

“If it stops invasive species from coming to our Idaho waters, we have to do it,” Sparks said.

The inspection program is being paid for by a special invasive species sticker that must be placed on boats and that costs from $5 to $20. The stickers were approved by Idaho lawmakers earlier this year.

Before that money is collected through boat sticker sales, though, the state is using a portion of $5 million in emergency funding to get the inspection sites running.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter approved the emergency measure — called “deficiency warrants” to get money to start the inspections.

“Every time we have used the deficiency warrants has been in a reactive manner to catastrophic events like wildfire,” said Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake. “I’m just so pleased the Legislature, and more specifically the governor, is so in tune to this. We have an opportunity now to prevent one of the biggest ecological disasters that could hit our state. I’m thrilled.”

Boaters who avoid the inspection sites could face fines of up to $3,000 and civil penalties of up to $10,000.