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Wednesday, December 11, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Idaho, Utah sign cooperative agreement to fight invasive mussels at Bear Lake

Bear Lake, viewed from the Idaho side of the lake, which lies in both Idaho and Utah. (Idaho State Parks)
Bear Lake, viewed from the Idaho side of the lake, which lies in both Idaho and Utah. (Idaho State Parks)

Idaho’s state Department of Agriculture and Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources have announced a cooperative agreement with the Bear Lake Regional Commission through which all three will work together to coordinate anti-invasive species efforts on Bear Lake, including boat inspection stations to check for invasive quagga or zebra mussels. The lake straddles the Idaho-Utah state line.

As part of the agreement, an inspection station previously operated by Idaho on the lake won’t operate this year, and instead Idaho will contribute $135,000 to the commission, to go toward the operation of two boat inspection stations on the Utah side of the lake. “We saw an opportunity to make more efficient use of our resources and efforts in the Bear Lake area by focusing on traffic entering from the south where the risk is greater, rather than duplicating inspection stations,” said Idaho Agriculture Director Celia Gould. “This kind of interstate agreement is unique, and consistent with the philosophy we’ve always had for this program: Focus resources in the field where they can do the most good.”

The two stations on the Utah side of the lake inspected 13,750 boats last year and completed 410 hot-water decontaminations on boats coming from mussel-infested waters elsewhere.

Utah State Sen. Curt Webb said, “By working together, in a collaborative and partner-driven manner, we will have far greater success than we would by working alone. This partnership not only addresses some of the jurisdictional concerns that naturally exist in the area, but it applies additional resources to areas where they will have the greatest impact.”

Idaho lawmakers this year approved a big boost in funding for efforts to keep the invasive mussels out of Idaho. When the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved the boost in March, its co-chair, Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, said, “The level of funding from the general fund for this effort is historic in nature. … We have seriously elevated our response to the threat and are taking action to try to protect Idaho’s precious waterways.”

The stepped-up efforts include additional inspection stations, more hours, and more law enforcement support for them to keep the damaging, fast-spreading mussels out of the state. The Northwest is the last region of the country still free of the invasive mussels.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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