OLYMPIA – State, federal and tribal governments will come together Oct. 23 to prepare for an infestation of quagga and zebra mussels.
The representatives will meet at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.
Invasive quagga and zebra mussels are small, non-native, freshwater mollusks that have caused significant environmental and economic harm in the United States. They first arrived in the Great Lakes in the 1980s by way of ships’ ballast water from the Caspian and Black seas.
Now, recreational boats are the primary cause of mussel spread in the United States, say officials.
“Zebra and quagga mussels have not been found in Washington waters, but they have been found on boats transported across state lines,” said Allen Pleus, aquatic invasive species manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. “In the past two years alone, we have intercepted more than 50 boats with mussels attached.
“We see this exercise as a critical, proactive step to safeguard our state’s ecosystems and economic interests.”
Quagga and zebra mussels can clog pipes and mechanical systems of industrial plants, utilities, locks and dams. If invasive mussels take hold in Washington, officials estimate it would cost more than $100 million each year to keep the state’s power and water infrastructure running, in addition to causing ecological damage.
In the practice exercise scheduled for Oct. 23, the National Park Service, Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Department of Fish and Wildlife will lead an emergency effort to respond to a practice scenario where quagga and zebra mussels are verified at the Kettle Falls Marina in Lake Roosevelt.
“The Columbia River is the last great river in the continental United States that doesn’t have quagga and zebra mussels in it. It only takes one boat to change that,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington Invasive Species Council. The council is leading the exercise.
“These mussels would have devastating impacts to virtually every aspect of life in Washington, from raising the cost of electricity, drinking water and food, to threatening endangered salmon in the Columbia River and our vibrant outdoor recreation economy,” Bush said.
“Quagga and zebra mussels represent an extreme impact to fishery and natural resources, public recreation, management of water resources and the economy wherever they are introduced,” said Dan Foster, superintendent of Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. “Everyone should be engaged in this fight. Participation in exercises such as this unify us in our efforts to protect and manage these resources.”
The exercise will include deploying and testing a containment system, boat inspections at Kettle Falls marina, a boat decontamination station and in-water monitoring by skilled divers and scientists.
The effort is supported by funding from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation through the U.S. Department of Interior’s Safeguarding the West Initiative, which aims to strengthen federal, tribal and state coordination to protect the West from economic and ecological threats posed by invasive mussels.
Other agencies involved in the practice response effort include the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and other state environmental and natural resource agencies through the Washington Invasive Species Council.