BOISE — About $21 million in federal funds have been appropriated to Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington to help keep invasive quagga and zebra mussels out of state waters.
The invasive mussels can devastate lakes and rivers, affecting water intakes, agriculture, recreation and more, according to a Pacific Northwest Economic Region presentation Jan. 16 to the House Agricultural Affairs Committee.
To combat this, Northwestern states have banded together to keep the invasive mussels out of their waters.
Over the last two years, the government has provided $9 million in matching funds through the Army Corps of Engineers to the four states and has allocated another $12 million for 2019 and 2020, according to Brandon Hardenbrook, PNWER chief operating officer. The nonprofit group is composed of five states and five Canadian jurisdictions.
Last year, Montana received $2.2 million, Idaho received $1.1 million, Oregon got $650,000 and Washington got $700,000 for mussel prevention efforts.
Lake Winnipeg in Canada is a key example of the devastating impact the mussels can leave on the environment. Six years ago, the lake had no signs of mussels. Now, they’ve washed up on the lake shores, piling nearly three feet high for miles on the beach.
“It just goes to show what can happen in a short period of time” said Larry Doke, PNWER president and member of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. “This is very serious. We’re very worried about it and I think everybody needs to take it seriously — they spread fast.”
The invasive mussels are typically spread on boats and other watercraft through travel.
An Idaho-specific analysis showed that the small invasive mussels, if introduced in the state, would have a $94 million annual impact on the state, not including the agricultural impact, according to Hardenbrook. In 2014, Washington state completed a study that estimated it would cost them nearly $500 million annually if the mussels were introduced into the Columbia River basin.
Inspections have turned up 50 instances in the past year of quagga or zebra mussels on watercraft in Idaho, Idaho Department of Agriculture plant industries Director Lloyd Knight told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Wednesday.
“All 50 of those were carrying dead mussels, and all 50 of those we had some kind of pre-notification,” Knight said. “So to us, even though that number has gone up, that’s a good thing. It shows we’re catching up with these.”
Other state and federal agencies also are doing their part and working with Idaho, Knight said.
”So we are catching watercraft, we’re catching more of them, and there’s more communication now between state and federal agencies before they get to Idaho,” Knight said.
Rep. Neil Anderson, R-Blackfoot, asked Knight about reports of invasive mussels in Montana. Montana found evidence of mussels in their immature form in 2017 in two reservoirs, Knight said. Since then, they’ve ramped up their monitoring programs, and have found no further evidence of mussel infestations.
”They’ve done a pretty good push on it in Montana,” Anderson said.