Invasive Mussels

Invasive mussels

Boaters are being asked to “clean, drain and dry” their boats after use this summer to prevent the spreading of damaging invasive species including quagga and zebra mussels.

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture, which cooperatively operates 20 watercraft inspection stations statewide along with six roving inspection teams, has found 35 watercraft fouled by the invasive mussels so far this year; all mussels found were deemed dead and “non-viable.”

The tiny, fast-spreading shellfish have infested the southwestern United States after being first identified in Lake Mead in 2007; Idaho officials, along with those in neighboring states, have been working hard to keep them from infesting Idaho waters. They can clog up and damage water intakes, pumps and water lines; harm native fisheries; and destroy beaches, among other damaging impacts.

“Public involvement is the program’s greatest asset,” ISDA Invasive Species Coordinator Nic Zurfluh said in a news release. “We want to remind the public they are the best line of defense in preventing the spread of invasive species. We hope watercraft users remember three simple but effective strategies: Clean. Drain. Dry.”

Here’s what ISDA recommends:

CLEAN watercraft and equipment before leaving any water body, including the watercraft themselves, anchors, planes, trailers, waders, shoes and gear. Dispose of any material found on-site in a trash receptacle or on high, dry ground where there is no danger of it washing into the water body.

DRAIN water from all equipment, including motors, live wells, sea strainers, wakeboard ballast tanks, boat hulls, scuba gear, bait buckets and boots. Pull the boat’s bilge plug and allow water to drain.

DRY all vessel compartments and lay equipment out to dry before using in a different water body.

Idaho State Police troopers and other partners including Idaho Power participate in the inspection program. Celia Gould, ISDA director, said, “A collaborative approach is the only option for a threat of this magnitude.”

Idaho lawmakers have enacted laws requiring a current invasive species sticker on all watercraft, whether motorized or non-motorized; only inflatables that are less than 10 feet long are exempt. The sticker fees help fund the inspection program. Watercraft users are required by law to stop for inspection when traveling past a check station during operating hours; some stations operate around the clock.

ISDA also has a hotline, toll-free, at (877) 336-8676 for anyone needing more information or to arrange for a free decontamination wash for boats or other watercraft that may have been in mussel-infested waters in other states.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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