Idaho check stations inspected 18% more watercraft last year compared to 2017 as the the state ramps up the battle to stop invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels.

While the number of boats to which the mussels were attached rose from 31 to 50, none of the mollusks was viable. Decontaminations had already been completed before the boats entered the state.

That pleased officials because it showed the effectiveness of broader regional cooperation among states.

“This is something we’ve been working on for a long time, the coordination with regional partners when encountering mussel-infested watercraft,” said Nic Zurfluh, state Department of Agriculture invasive species section manager.

The mussels can clog irrigation pipes and canals, dams, and municipal water systems as they colonize a waterway.

The Columbia Basin has been spared from the mussels in part because states are working together to keep them out, he said. Participation by watercraft owners has also increased due in part to more public outreach.

Idaho last year added two inspection stations to bring the total to 20, increased nighttime operating hours at three, started its season earlier and ended it later, and boosted law-enforcement support, Zurfluh said.

New stations are at U.S. Highway 12 at Kooskia and U.S. Highway 93 at North Fork. ISDA also has roving crews in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls.

Just over 110,000 boats were inspected last year.

Several stations are at key border sites where they’re most likely to inspect watercraft coming from known mussel population areas such as parts of the Southwest and the Midwest.

Any type of watercraft coming from these waters can be fouled, from boats and dredges to jet skis, paddle boards and float tubes.

The program has inspected more than 600,000 watercraft since its 2009 inception, Zurfluh said. As the 2019 season ramped up with eight stations open as of April 2, 1,237 inspections had already been completed.

Five fouled watercraft have been found so far this year, to bring the total to 250 since 2009.

The $5.6 million-per-year program is funded by a combination of state general fund money, fees and federal grants. It operated on a $1.4 million budget, funded solely from an invasive-species sticker, before 2018.

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