OUTLAWS – Some drivers with watercraft, especially in vehicles with kayaks or stand-up paddle boards, are missing the boat inspection signs on Interstate 90 in Washington just west of the Idaho state line.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife stepped up efforts to keep exotic mussels and other invasive species out of the state’s waterways with more emphasis this year on checking boats being carried or towed across the stateline. The aquatic invasive species (AIS) check station is open Thursdays through Sundays at the Port of Entry scales.
All vessels are required to be inspected, said Pam Taylor, Washington Fish and Wildlife Police officer.
While 300 or so vessels a week stop in for an inspection at the Spokane Valley station, four to 12 vehicles a day are pulled over by enforcement officers for neglecting to pull in, Taylor said.
“SUPs and kayaks are the ones that don’t stop most often out of all the different types of watercraft out there,” she said, noting that the signage is clear.
“The boat inspections are mandatory. It’s actually a criminal violation not to stop.”
No citations have been written, yet, because the emphasis of the boat inspection program is education, she said.
“The inspections take less than 5 minutes to complete and boaters are on their way again,” she said. “We can issue an AIS Passport for frequent visitors that have already been educated on AIS and know to keep their watercraft clean, drained and dry, she said, quoting the mantra of agencies battling introduction of aquatic invasives in northwest states.
“We stamp their passport, ask a couple of questions and send them on their way.”
Primarily targets are zebra and quagga muscles, which were found in Montana last year, causing that state to dramatically ramp up prevention efforts. The mussels can multiply quickly into masses that impact boats, irrigation systems and dams – as well as fish.
“We are desperately try to educate the public on this threat to our ecosystem,” Taylor said. “So far this year, the Spokane check station had two vessels come through infected with zebra muscles and were decontaminated at the WDFW Spokane Regional Office.”
The state line inspection station opened April 10 and is scheduled to operate through October. The season likely will be expanded next year, she said.
The grace period for warnings won’t last forever, the veteran Fish and Wildlife Police officer said, and the consequences won’t be convenient.
“Being a criminal offense, there would be an mandatory court appearance for anyone with a vessel cited for driving past an AIS inspection station.”
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