Invasive mussels prompt Washington boat checks - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Invasive mussels prompt Washington boat checks

Quagga and zebra mussels can clog agricultural irrigation pipes, impact power generation, encrust native species and disrupt the food web Quagga and zebra mussels can clog agricultural irrigation pipes, impact power generation, encrust native species and disrupt the food web

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has started conducting mandatory stops to inspect boats for invasive aquatic species. The invasive species are comprised mostly of mussels and officials say if they are introduced into area lakes, they have the potential to turn the ecosystem upside down.

Just this week, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, acting on tips from a witness, was able to track down a boat contaminated with invasive mussels before it hit area lakes. The contaminated boat was from Lake Mead in Nevada and a Utah resident spotted the boat traveling north toward the Idaho state line, one way these mussels spread. The mussels are capable of living from 3 to 4 weeks out of water.

"The invasive mussel species attach themselves to any boat or other water craft and basically hitchhike from one body of water to another, infecting waterways across the nation," says Sergeant Eric Anderson with the WDFW.

That boat was decontaminated Thursday in Spokane Valley. Officials scraped all of the mussels off and pressured washed the vessel with 140 degree water.

Even if you don't own a boat, officials say you will be affected if the mussels invade the Northwest.

"You are literally going to pay higher electricity bills if they get here, up to 25 percent to 50 percent, higher food costs, ag products in Washington will skyrocket and if you're a municipal water user, you pay for city water, it's going to go higher," says Anderson.

If introduced in Idaho, it has been estimated that the fouling mussels could cost taxpayers $100 million annually. Mussels can rapidly colonize a water body and live for several days out of the water.They clog pipes, foul infrastructure and damage recreational equipment.

It is a misdemeanor to transport invasive mussels into Washington. The Department of Fish and Wild says the owner of the boat they cleaned Thursday is cooperating and no charges have been filed yet.

The State of Idaho is requiring boat owners to purchase stickers before they can legally put any vessel into the water. You can purchase that sticker online through the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

You can also purchase stickers through the mail by mailing your completed form with a check, payable to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR). Please allow seven (7) days for processing.

IDPR Registration Unit
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720-0065

Officers hope a combination of enforcement and education will keep Northwest waters clean and invasive mussels out.

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