The Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) is reminding boaters to take measures during the Fourth of July holiday to prevent spreading invasive species, such as quagga and zebra mussels.
The ISDA’s invasive species watercraft inspection program is in its eleventh season of operation.
“Public involvement is the program’s greatest asset,” said ISDA Invasive Species Coordinator Nic Zurfluh. “This is a popular weekend for recreating in Idaho’s waterways, and we want to remind the public they are the best line of defense in preventing the spread of invasive species. We hope watercraft users remember three simple but effective strategies: Clean. Drain. Dry.”
- CLEAN watercraft and equipment before leaving any waterbody. Clean watercraft, anchors, planes, trailers, waders, shoes, and gear for visible plants and pests. Dispose of material on-site in a trash receptacle or on high, dry ground where there is no danger of it washing into a waterbody.
- DRAIN water from all equipment, including motors, live wells, sea strainers, wakeboard ballast tanks, boat hulls, scuba gear, bait buckets, and boots. Pull the boat’s bilge plug and allow water to drain.
- DRY all vessel compartments and lay equipment out to dry before using in a different waterbody.
This year, the ISDA and its cooperators have performed more than 45,000 watercraft inspections. Inspectors have found 35 mussel-fouled watercraft carrying dead, non-viable mussels.
Law enforcement officers across the state are indispensable partners in Idaho’s watercraft inspection program. So far this year, officers have turned back for inspection nearly 1,000 vehicles traveling with boats or watercraft.
“Idaho State Police supports the ISDA in this important initiative, and for that reason we have Troopers working with them at watercraft inspection stations to ensure Idaho is kept safe and clean,” said ISP Colonel Kedrick Wills. “As Idahoans, we want to keep our lakes and waterways free of harmful, invasive species because we’re well aware of the damage they can cause.”
The ISDA and its cooperators operate 20 watercraft inspection stations strategically positioned at important corridors into Idaho. The program also includes six roving inspection teams.
“We’ve worked hard on this program but we certainly haven’t worked alone,” said ISDA Director Celia Gould. “We are very grateful for committed cooperators, law enforcement service, strong legislative backing, and the support of important partners such as Idaho Power. A collaborative approach is the only option for a threat of this magnitude.”
Before launching on Idaho waters, all watercraft must have a current invasive species sticker, which is sold by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) at many locations across the state.
“Keeping Idaho’s waterways free from invasive species requires the diligence of all boat owners, including non-motorized vessels,” said Jennifer Okerlund, Communications Manager for the IDPR. “Idaho law states that any motorized or non-motorized boat operating in Idaho is required to display an Invasive Species Fund sticker. Only inflatable, non-motorized vessels that are less than 10 feet in length are exempt from this requirement.”
Watercraft users are required by law to stop for inspection when traveling past an Idaho invasive species station during operating hours. Owners are encouraged to participate in the inspection process to learn ways to keep watercraft cleaned, drained and dry.
The ISDA operates a hotline at (877) 336-8676 for anyone needing information or a free decontamination wash for watercraft that may have been in mussel-infested waters.
More information on the operation of inspection stations is available on the ISDA website: http://invasivespecies.idaho.gov/watercraft-inspection-stations/. For real-time program updates visit: https://idaho.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/91aa2987ab5542b08523d6a9056697d2.