Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Invasive species cropping up again in Washington

Staff Writer | May 4, 2023 4:22 PM

SPOKANE — The boating season is officially underway in Washington state. To keep lakes, rivers, and other water bodies clean and beautiful, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking the public to take a few simple steps when launching boats or other vessels this season, according to a press release from the department.

The invasive species zebra mussels and quagga mussels are of particular concern, according to the WDFW. They clog pipes and mechanical systems of industrial plants, dams, water systems, utilities, locks, and hatcheries. The department’s enforcement program checks vessels for signs of those species and also for noxious non-native weeds, the release said.

To keep unwanted species from making a home in Washington, drivers are required by law to stop at one of WDFW’s four watercraft check stations when transporting a watercraft if it’s on the road they are traveling, according to the release. All vessels, from powerboats to kayaks to paddleboards must be checked. The inspection takes only a few minutes, the release said.

“Invasive mussels haven’t taken hold in Washington yet, and the Columbia River is the last major United States river that has not been impacted. But, it only takes one boat to ruin that,” wrote Captain Eric Anderson, WDFW aquatic invasive species enforcement program lead, in the release. “Efforts by WDFW and partners including irrigators, public utilities, and the boating industry have been successful in preventing the spread of these species to Washington to date.”

Watercraft check stations are clearly posted and located on Interstate 90 near the Washington-Idaho border and near Cle Elum. There is also one on U.S. 395 near the Tri-Cities, and another near the Port of Clarkston.

In addition to checking watercraft before going into the water, WDFW asks boat owners to:

• Clean, drain, and dry watercraft after removing them from the water

• Clean all equipment – waders, life vests, boat hulls and engines, trailers and other gear – by removing plants, algae or mud.

• Drain accumulated water back into the waterbody from which it came.

• Rinse all surfaces with potable water and let boats and gear fully dry before using them again

“Cleaning your boat, kayak or other watercraft now could mean less money spent later to eradicate invasive species that take hold,” wrote Justin Bush, executive coordinator for the Washington Invasive Species Council, in the release. “If we prevent them from establishing in Washington, then they won’t harm our native fish, restrict our recreation, or damage our shipping, hydropower, flood control and irrigation industries.”

More information on Washington invasive species can be found at InvasiveSpecies.wa.gov.

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