It’s boating season. We were headed out for a day of canoeing and pulled into the state boat check station at Marsing where Idaho 55 and U.S. 95 meet.
A whitewater boater was unwrapping his raft for inspection as an Owyhee County sheriff’s deputy and a helper looked over the raft.
My canoe on top of the car was next. The station personnel looked over the bottom of the canoe for any dried slime and other gunk that might hide invasive mussels. The deputy ran his hand along one section of the canoe.
“Where was the last place you had the canoe?,” the young worker said. I thought back and it had to be last summer on the Salmon River near Stanley. Maybe it was the Boise River? I couldn’t remember. We have several canoes and they go to a lot of different waters. Maybe it was Priest Lake?
The inspection didn’t take long and we were on our way to paddle on a Oregon desert pothole.
The Idaho Department of Agriculture’s web site on the Invasive Species Council says the agency conducted 42,348 inspections in 2012 and found 57 boats fouled with quagga/zebra mussels. That year the state had 15 highway stations from North Idaho to Southeast Idaho, including Marsing and near Bruneau. Fouled boats were also found at Ports of Entry throughout the state.
Zebra mussels are prolific species that cost the U.S. billions of dollars each year. The small mussels from Eurasia can clog water intakes and damage equipment by attaching to boat motors and hard surfaces. They can damage ecosystems by harming fisheries, smothering native mussels and crayfish and littering beaches with their sharp shells. In the late 1980s, zebra mussels spread from Europe to the Great Lakes in contaminated ballast water discharged from foreign ships.
The Quagga mussel is a sister species now present in Lake Mead and Lake Havasu in the Southwest. Boaters from these waters greatly increases the risk of introduction into Idaho and other Northwest states.
Luckily, I had my invasive species sticker on my canoe. The owner of any boat registered in Idaho or another state must purchase and display an Idaho Invasive Species Fund sticker to launch and operate legally in Idaho. Non-motorized vessels except inflatables less than 10 feet in length also must have a sticker.
For more information, go to http://www.parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/ and look under permits and stickers.
Photo at the Marsing boat-check station last weekend by Pete Zimowsky/Idaho Statesman