Mussel-laden boats stopped at border

Idaho station opens early in bid to protect waters

Two boats fouled with invasive mussels from the Great Lakes have already been stopped at a mandatory inspection checkpoint on Interstate 90 near Wallace this year.

Idaho Department of Agriculture officials said the early detection affirms their decision to open the checkpoint six weeks sooner than they did last year. About 20 vessels have been inspected at the station since the Feb. 3 opening.

“We’ve had two hits – that’s 10 percent,” said Matt Voile, the department’s section manager for invasive species and noxious weeds.

Both vessels were being transported by commercial haulers to waters on the Washington coast. They were taken to decontamination centers in Washington to be cleaned.

Keeping the non-native zebra and quagga mussels out of Northwest waters is a high priority for Idaho, Washington and Oregon. The tiny mussels multiply so quickly that they can ruin beaches, pipes and other equipment.

The Great Lakes region is heavily infested with the mussels. They’re also in Lake Mead, Lake Havasu and other federal waters in the lower Colorado River system.

Idaho began its watercraft inspection program in 2009. More than 100,000 boats have been inspected. Thirty-eight boats contaminated with mussels have been intercepted before being launched into Pacific Northwest waterways.

Information collected at the checkpoints alerted officials that vessels were being transported outside of the traditional boating season, Voile said. That led to the decision about opening the Wallace station earlier, he said.

“We also found that there’s a fairly regular trade of boat docks bought and sold across the United States,” Voile said. Boat docks are inspected, too, since they can harbor the invasive mussels.

Six inspection stations in Southern Idaho are scheduled to open Thursday. Stations in Sandpoint and Samuels, Idaho, will open in May, along with additional stations in southeast Idaho.

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