BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Idaho officials intercepted 24 boats contaminated with invasive zebra or quagga mussels and Washington decontaminated 20 boats during the last boating season -- numbers that have officials in both states concerned.
"Mussel-fouled boats continue to leave infested waters without proper decontamination," Idaho Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould told The Spokesman-Review (http://bit.ly/u18jFO). "The federal government needs to do a better job of containing infestations in their waters and preventing the spread of these species to the Pacific Northwest states."
Washington, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Montana all have sent letters in the past three years to the National Park Service appealing for help. The agency runs the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in southern Nevada, which has been infested by zebra mussels believed to have been transported from the Great Lakes by unwitting recreational boaters.
Park service officials have been sending notifications to invasive species programs in other states when officials learn that boats are headed from Lake Mead to those states. But it isn't clear if the agency has any authority over boats that are leaving the park, said John Willschleger, fisheries program leader for the park service.
Idaho inspected 65 boats from Lake Mead during the boating season, but the state only received a handful of notifications, Idaho invasive species coordinator Amy Ferriter said.
Of the 24 mussel-contaminated boats spotted at Idaho check stations, 15 were coming from either the Midwest or the eastern part of the U.S. Most of those were being commercially hauled on Interstate 90 into Idaho, and most had been winterized, so they'd been drained and dried and posed less risk to waters in the state, Ferriter said.
But nine of the mussel-contaminated boats were en route to Idaho from the Southwest, including four from Lake Mead, two from Lake Pleasant near Phoenix and three from Lake Havasu, which straddles the Arizona-California border.
The proximity is a problem -- recreationists can drive from Lake Mead to Twin Falls, Idaho, in less than nine hours, and many boaters winter at contaminated lakes down south before returning to places like Coeur d'Alene for summer boating, Ferriter said.
So far, there are no known detections of zebra or quagga mussels in any Columbia Basin locations in British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, said Allen Pleus, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"So, we're the last great water basin without these species in the United States," he said.
Idaho inspected more than 47,000 boats this year at 15 check stations across the state. Washington, which has only random inspections but has strong decontamination programs, coordinated with Idaho and Oregon to route mussel-fouled boats to its decontamination facilities.
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com
Copyright 2011 The AP.