-- Jay DeLong Olympia, WA
June 19, 2001, 04:30 PM SEATTLE - Ken Erickson was excited when his new sailboat arrived from Michigan - until he got a phone call from the department of fish and wildlife. "She called me and said call me at home right now. We've got a problem with this boat. Do not put this boat in the water for anything," says Erickson. The problem - tiny, fresh water shellfish called Zebra Mussels. In the Midwest they clog pipes and starve out native species. "It's cost millions and millions of dollars. In fact, they estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of five billion," says Pam Meacham of the Department of Fish & Wildlife.
Erickson's boat carried Zebra Mussels from Lake Michigan. Inspectors found them first behind the rudder and then on Tuesday in a filter deep inside the hull. This was a close call. Biologists are convinced Zebra Mussels would thrive in Washington. And if they did become established here the economic consequences could be staggering. Imagine masses of mussels fouling the region's locks and hydroelectric dams. That's why the Washington State Patrol now inspects large boats for mussels at weigh stations on the state border. But cars towing smaller craft don't even have to stop. "I'd say we probably only get to see maybe 20 percent of the boats that come in if that," says Meacham.
Fortunately, Ken Erickson's boat did have to stop. Now it will sit on land until state inspectors are convinced it is mussel-free. The Zebra Mussel arrived here in the 1980s carried aboard freighters from Europe. It is now found in 19 states.
Following is a statement from Pamala Meacham, Asst. Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator, WA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife:
> A 40 foot sailboat was stopped at the Spokane Port of Entry Saturday the 16th. > Although the boat had been very thoroughly pressure washed, officers took the > time to pull aside plastic flaps at the top of the rudder and found zebra > mussels. WDFW has quarantined the boat at a boat yard in Seattle, and > inspected the interior water systems. King 5 News was present when we > inspected the boat, they interviewed the owner, the people refitting the > boat, and WDFW staff. Segments were shown on the 6:30 news Tuesday the 19th. > > Live zebra mussels were found in the screens in the water system for the head > and the engine cooling water systems. The boat will not be released until the > systems have been thoroughly flushed with hot water. It will then be trailered > to a salt water marina for launch to make absolutely certain that there is no > possibility of contaminating fresh water. > > WSP and WDFW had met in Spokane on Thursday the 14th for training and to > review and update protocols. Both agencies are striving to set protocols in > place that will assure rapid response to incidents, and full control of them. > We are also working with the Department of Ecology permit division to insure > that all boat yards are fully aware of their responsibilities to inspect ALL > boats from E. of the rockies and to report to WDFW or USFWS if there is any > suspicion of contamination. This incident alerted us to the fact that not all > operators are cognizant of their responsibility. WDFW is preparing an > educational flyer to be distributed to every marina in the state, and this > summer boater surveys and education are being conducted at ten of the most > highly used lakes via a contract with Pacific States Marine Fisheries. > > WDFW staff and volunteer biogists from several PUDs and Tribes sample several > lakes and the entire length of the Columbia and the lower Snake rivers several > times each summer for the presence of zebra mussels. A science technician has > been hired to manage the monitoring and collect the samples for analysis. He > will also be sampling high risk lakes where we have been unable to obtain the > services of a volunteer. WDFW has contracted with the Center for Lakes and > Reservoirs at Portland State University for the construction, distribution, > and monitoring of colonization substrates by lake front property owners. > While our primary focus is to prevent introduction - it is important to > monitor so we may respond rapidly should an introduction occur. >
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