BOISE - The threat to Idaho from invasive zebra and quagga mussels is so great, according to Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, that Idaho needs to enact emergency legislation right away to make every boat operator in the state purchase a sticker that’d help fund wash stations to keep the tiny and insidious shellfish out of Idaho’s waterways.
Anderson won unanimous support from the House State Affairs Committee today to introduce his bill; the next step is a full public hearing. “It’d be a $100 misdemeanor to not have that (sticker) on your vessel,” he told the panel. “However, the intent of this is not to fine, the intent of this is to educate.”
Several million dollars that Idaho had allocated for fighting aquatic invasive species got wiped out in this year’s budget cuts, so Anderson says funding is needed right away. Vessels registered in Idaho would pay $10 a year; those registered out of state but launching in Idaho would pay $20; and non-motorized vessels, which don’t register, would pay $5 apiece. The only exclusion is for inflatables less than 10 feet long; commercial outfitters with large non-motorized fleets would get a bulk discount.
Anderson showed the committee a paperweight with a cluster of the invasive zebra mussels encased in plastic, and another sealed exhibit showing a cutaway of a water pipe filled with the tiny, sticky shellfish. The mussels, which can clog pipes, destroy pumps, take over beaches and drive out all other species - they smell, too, Anderson said - have now turned up in Utah just 180 miles away from Idaho.
“We have one opportunity, in my mind, to prevent the introduction,” Anderson told the committee. “Boats are the means of transmission, that’s how they get here.”
Idaho already has two hot-water washing stations operating a Henry’s Lake in southern Idaho as a pilot project, and a portable washing station at Priest Lake. Anderson said hot-water washing is the best way to remove the mussels from boats.
The state of Maine already has initiated a boat sticker program, Anderson said, that could serve as a model for Idaho. “These things out-compete every other species in the water column - they would be gone,” Anderson said. “We’re at extreme risk in Idaho.”