At least 24 boats harboring invasive quagga mussels have been intercepted since March at Idaho’s roadside boat inspection stations.
That may not seem like a huge catch from more than 40,000 boat inspections during that period, but officials say the region stands to lose big if just one boat brings the exotics into state waters.
The boats were decontaminated with 140-degree water and released.
Quagga and zebra mussels are freshwater invasives that create havoc in water ecosystems.
Idaho is one of five Western states that have avoided quagga mussels infestations. State officials want to keep it that way.
Quagga mussels, which range from microscopic to the size of a fingernail when full grown, are prolific breeders and attach themselves to hard and soft surfaces. They foul freshwater ecosystems by clogging intake pipes, water delivery systems and irrigation pipe fittings, and cost millions of dollars a year to treat.
Amy Ferriter, the Idaho Agriculture Department’s invasive species coordinator, said the mussels could cost Idaho up to $100 million a year to treat if they gain a foothold.
“We’re really trying hard to keep them out,” she said.
Idaho’s $850,000 program, funded by boat fees and sales of required invasive species stickers, started in March to intercept boats coming to Idaho from overwintering areas such as Arizona.
The stations in North Idaho will close for the season Monday night.
Western states and federal agencies urge watercraft owners to clean, drain and dry their boats and equipment before entering Idaho.