Idaho inspection stations are trying to stop invasive species

Jesse Nielsen and Sean Coombs wait for boats canoes or any other watercraft for Mussels and invasive water plants that may be transported across state lines. The presser washer to the right is what they use to clean mussels off of boats.

Idaho is serious about protecting their waters from Quagga and Zebra Mussels. This year they have added other invasive species for inspectors to be on the lookout for.

Nora Shelly, a trained technician stationed at the Hyrum State Park’s front gate, holds a rope infested with quagga and zebra mussels to show the impact the shelled critters can have on a lake.

Inspection stations set up to check boats and other watercraft are Idaho’s first line of defense against the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species. Watercraft and equipment brought into Idaho is the single largest threat to Idaho waters and should be checked.

All major entrances into the Gem State have an inspection station, from the north to the south and east to west. Not only are they trying to stop invasive marine life, but also invasive weeds and other plants.

“We are checking inner tubes, canoes, kayaks and any other floating device,” said Sean Coombs, an inspector stationed at Franklin, Idaho. “We are not only checking for Quagga and Zebra mussels, we are looking for invasive aquatic plants.”

Department of Agriculture trains all inspectors and the ones at the Franklin boarder work for Franklin County Soil and Water District for their service.

“We can pressure wash boats’ motors right here,” Coombs said. “The inspection is good for five days.” Inspection stations are from sun up to sun down.

Chris Hatch at the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District said anytime a water craft comes into Franklin County, it needs to go through the inspection station. Even if the watercraft was only out of state for a day, it needs to looked over.

It’s not just boats, anything that goes in the water,” Hatch clarified. “Floating bridges, tubes, canoes, kayaks. Whatever you have, we inspect it all.”

A sign hanging on the portable office on the Idaho border at Franklin. The inspection station is open and personnel are checking for tiny shelled hitchhikers on all watercraft as well as aquatic invasive plants.

They also check trailers, decoys, visible plants, animals and anchors, and they will remove and dispose of infected material on site.

Inspectors eliminate water from all motors, live wells, boat hulls, scuba regulators, bait buckets, waders and boots. All must be clean and dry.

Releasing animals or plants (aquarium species, bait, pet or water garden plants) into the wild is prohibited.

Nic Zurfluh, a six year veteran at the Idaho Department of Agriculture, is the section manager of the Invasive Species program. He said noxious water plants and mussels are related to the noxious weed plant division of the Department of Agriculture.

When checking for mussels, there are different protocols if the mussels are alive or dead,” Zurfrluh said.  “Last year was the 10th year, over a decade of checking boats.”

He said over the decade they have inspected 600,000 boats. Although they have found 245 mussel-fouled boats, they have never seen any indication that they’re in Idaho waters.

There are 16 inspection stations throughout Idaho. Three of the stations bordering northeastern Utah are at Franklin, Malad and one at Bear Lake’s North Shore.

Idaho officials made a list of boats considered “High Risk” to the State of Idaho.

  • Boats that have been in mussel-infested states recently (within the last 30 days).
  • Watercraft coming from another state (especially commercially hauled boats).
  • Boats that show a lot of dirt, grime, or slime below the waterline.
  • Boats that have standing water on board.

Both the quagga and zebra mussels reproduce rapidly and deplete nutrients from the water, killing wildlife.

Inspectors are checking a boat at the Idaho border. They also check inner tubes, canoes, kayaks and any other floating device, they are not only checking for Quagga and Zebra mussels, but are also looking for invasive aquatic plants.

Destruction caused to farmers by mussels could be catastrophic.  If the invasive species were to be washed down streams they could cause real damage to sprinklers, pipes, pumps, and hydroelectric plants.

Infestations of mussels would be a tragedy to the stockholders that use the water to irrigate their crops.

Zurfluh said they are taking a cooperative approach. They work with counties, cities and rural community developments.

 

 

 

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