Two legislative interim committees are meeting today: The Invasive Species Working Group opened its first meeting at 9 a.m. today in room EW 42 of the state Capitol, and the Public School Funding Formula Committee meets at 10:15 a.m. in the Lincoln Auditorium. You can watch live online here.
At the Invasive Species Working Group, Thomas Woolf, aquatic invasive species program manager for the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, opened today’s meeting with an overview of the threat to Idaho should invasive quagga or zebra mussels arrive, showing pictures of beaches, pipes and boats fouled by thousands of the tiny mussels. “The Idaho Invasive Species Council estimated a cost of $94 million a year to the state of Idaho if these mussels were introduced to the state, and that figure did not include agricultural impacts,” Woolf told the lawmakers.
Impacts could hit everything from irrigation systems to dams to drinking water systems to tourism. “People don’t want these things on their watercraft, they don’t want to be a on a beach covered with stinky, sharp shells.”
The invasive mussels were introduced to the Great Lakes from Asia in 1988 in ballast water from international shipping, he said. They’ve been moving throughout the United States “primarily through trailered watercraft.” The mussels also move quickly downstream on their own, he noted.
Today’s meeting includes Idaho statutes and rules on invasive species; how things have been going under Idaho’s 2008 Invasive Species Act and boat sticker program; and, this afternoon, discussion of recommended uses of new federal funding for regional prevention efforts. A senior program manager for the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission from Portland will discuss regional coordination, and at 3, Sen. Curt McKenzie, immediate past president of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, will discuss that group’s cross-border efforts on mussels; the group includes Canadian provinces as well as states in the Pacific Northwest.
From 3:30 to 4 p.m., the committee will accept public testimony, and then members will discuss next steps.