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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Officials intercept mussels at border

Driver faces felony after second incident

The driver for a Marysville, Wash., trucking firm is facing a possible felony charge after he was caught hauling a boat contaminated with zebra mussels for the second time since 2010.

The mussels were discovered by a Washington State Patrol commercial officer on Oct. 26 when the truck entered Washington via Interstate 90.

Officers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife discovered about 100 of the mussels on the large recreational vessel at the port of entry.

Fish and Wildlife Capt. Dan Rahn said officers ordered the vessel decontaminated with a hot-water spray. The driver, who was not identified, was working for Associated Boat Transport Inc.

The driver was released with the truck and the boat after several hours, but the boat was ordered to be dry-docked to ensure that any remaining mussels would die off, Rahn said.

The investigation into the incident continues, and the state may request a felony charge, he said.

The driver previously had been stopped near Ellensburg in 2010 with another boat that was contaminated with invasive mussels, Rahn said.

Under state law, the driver can be charged with a felony since it is a second offense within five years.

During an interview with Fish and Wildlife officers, the driver admitted that he had also been stopped once in another state with a contaminated boat.

So far, Washington waters have not been contaminated by zebra mussels or the related invasive quagga mussel.

Zebra mussels are a freshwater organism that arrived in the Great Lakes presumably on ships from their native habitat in Eastern Europe in about 1988.

The mussels eventually form mats of sharp-edged shells that can clog water pipes, damage docks and injure swimmers.

Idaho’s seasonal boat check stations are helping Washington to control the problem by identifying contaminated vessels, but those check stations were closed for the season when the Marysville truck crossed into Washington, Rahn said.

He said public awareness of the problem will help to control it. “If you see mussels on a vessel, we’d like to know about it,” Rahn said.

A woman who answered the phone at Associated Boat Transport said that vessel owners are asked to decontaminate their boats before shipping them. “We are not biologists. We are truck drivers,” the woman said. The business’s owner was not available for comment on Friday, she said.