HOLLISTER • Boat owners, be prepared to stop.
The Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s boat inspection stations have been open since March 1 and are already catching boats carrying invasive mussels into Idaho.
The department has set up 15 inspection stations across the state as a line of defense against the invasion of zebra or quagga mussels, said Kali Shiller, an ISDA supervisor, while speaking to a small group of people Wednesday in Hollister.
The mussels are not native to the Pacific Northwest but have been found in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. The European originated species grows only up to the size of a fingernail, but can attach to surfaces en masse. They can cause millions of dollars in damage by clogging intake pipes and machinery.
Idaho is one of the handful of states that is not afflicted with zebra or quagga mussel invasion, Shiller said.
However, that doesn’t mean the state can hold them off forever, she said.
“It’s not about if an invasion comes here, but preparing for when it gets here,” Shiller said. “These stations have bought us time.”
Inspections are free but mandatory for all boat owners driving into the state. Each boat is given a visual scan and a hot water bath with a power washer before it can proceed farther.
The inspection station along U.S. Highway 93 near the Idaho-Nevada border in southern Twin Falls County caught its first fouled vessel the second day it was open, Shiller said.
“We have already inspected over 2,000 boats and 11 of those were fouled,” she said. “We’re going to be keeping our stations open longer this year to make sure we have more time to catch infected boats.”