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NW Fishletter #371, July 3, 2017
 Boats Fouled by Invasive Mussels Intercepted in Idaho, Montana, Oregon; Zinke Says Stopping Their Spread is Non-Partisan
Reports indicate that inspectors in Idaho, Montana and Oregon have intercepted 22 watercraft infested with non-native dressinid mussels so far in 2017.
The mussels can clog waterways and water infrastructure, and pose a grave threat to the region's dams and hydropower generation.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a June 27 announcement that his agency would ask Congress for an increase in fiscal year 2018 funding to combat quagga and zebra mussels.
"Protecting our waterways and ecosystems is not a partisan issue," he said.
The invasive shellfish have already damaged hydroelectric and irrigation systems and changed ecosystems in the Great Lakes, and now pose a threat to Western waterways.
Zinke's statement singled out the Columbia and Colorado basins as particularly at risk.
One of the latest detections in Northwest was a mussel-fouled boat intercepted June 8 in Idaho coming from Lake Havasu, an infected waterbody on the border of Arizona and California. In total this year, 17 watercraft entering Idaho have been found to be inhabited by invasive mussels.
Most of the boats detected in Idaho were coming from Lake Havasu.
Since Memorial Day weekend, inspectors in Montana have intercepted three infested boats.
In Oregon two boats were inspected and decontaminated in May, according to an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife news release. A yacht from Tennessee had zebra mussels attached, and a boat arriving from Lake Havasu had standing water, which was likely carrying the invasive zebra or quagga mussel.
Expanding the prevention budget by $4.5 million, Zinke's statement said, is part of a package of 41 measures agreed to by more than 70 tribal, federal and state government officials who worked on the initiative for the past three months, according to the Interior Department.
The plan emphasizes coordinated inspection systems and prevention messaging, data sharing and enhanced detection technology, among other actions.
In the current fiscal year, Interior added $1 million to the effort through the Bureau of Reclamation, while the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs recently awarded $683,000 in funding to Pacific Northwest tribes to help them stop the spread of quagga and zebra mussels.
This May a contaminated boat was detected on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation on its way to Flathead Lake, the Glacier Reporter said in a June 7 story. The boat was from Michigan, where invasive mussels have a strong foothold.
It was the first mussel-bearing boat to be discovered in Montana in 2017. Last November, mussels were detected for the first time in several Montana water bodies.
Newly trained inspectors at the detection station on the reservation identified the mussels by the byssal threads the bivalves use to attach themselves to boats. Native mussels do not have byssal threads.
According to a June Facebook post on Montana Mussel Response, two other boats intercepted May 26-27 in eastern Montana were contaminated.
The first of the two boats was arriving from the Great Lakes region and heading to West Yellowstone.
The other boat failed to stop at the inspection station and was caught and returned to the station by the Montana Highway Patrol. The vessel was on its way to British Columbia. Canadian authorities were notified.
All intercepted watercraft were decontaminated before being released to their owners.
"Stopping the spread of invasive mussels and increasing our Federal-State-Tribal coordination are both critical priorities in order to ensure that we maintain hydropower as a clean, reliable, cost-effective source of energy for the West and protect our outdoor tourism economies," said Zinke. -Laura Berg
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