Zebra mussels

Zebra mussels

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
Live zebra mussels were identified on a boat at the I-90 West “Cedars” watercraft inspection station east of Coeur d’Alene on Monday. The station, one of 20 operated statewide by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), is operated cooperatively with the Kootenai-Shoshone Soil Water Conservation District. The fouled boat has been put under a regulatory hold order by the ISDA and is prohibited from launching into Lake Coeur d’Alene until it completes a full decontamination protocol. 


The boat, a large commercially hauled sailboat that originated in Lake Erie, Ohio, was pulled from the water there on October 2, 2020, before leaving for Coeur d’Alene. The boat was inspected at stations operated by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, which informed Idaho of the boat, its condition, and the final destination in Coeur d’Alene. 


Upon arrival of the watercraft at the station on westbound I-90, mussels were identified throughout the interior and exterior of the boat, and a hot water wash was performed by Conservation District staff at the inspection site. ISDA regional staff then inspected the boat again at the destination in Coeur d’Alene, mussels were field tested to verify viability, and a hold order was issued to prohibit launch and allow up to 30 days for full decontamination and mandatory dry time. 


Multiple local private industry groups assisted in protecting Lake Coeur d’Alene by declining launch access until state officials could inspect watercraft as well as providing transport, removal and storage of the infested watercraft until proper dry time is achieved. The watercraft owner remained cooperative and understanding of the situation throughout the regulatory process.


“Infested watercraft of this scale and complexity require a collaborative effort across several program partners to achieve the desired outcome. ISDA appreciates the continued support from local stakeholders to protect Idaho waters from invasive species,” said ISDA Director Celia Gould.


Monday’s interception is an example of the importance of the partnerships for ISDA’s Invasive Species Program. The ISDA has cooperative agreements with the Kootenai-Shoshone Soil and Water Conservation District for inspection station operations, the Kootenai County Sheriff to provide enhanced services and enforcement at invasive species check stations, Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) for station locations, and the Idaho State Police for additional law enforcement support. The program also benefits from the cooperation among local interest groups, private industry and stakeholders in preventing aquatic invasive species from entering Idaho waterways. The Idaho program also enjoys close working relationships with neighboring states such as Montana, including daily communication of watercraft movement and enforcement actions to protect Idaho and the Columbia River Basin. 


ISDA has conducted Invasive Species Program watercraft inspections since 2009. Program decisions and strategies are driven by data to best leverage funding with known priorities and risks. To date, over 750,000 watercraft inspections have been performed, including over 130,000 in 2020. Those inspections have identified 322 fouled watercraft carrying zebra or quagga mussels, including 32 watercraft in 2020. The boat on Monday was the first boat carrying live, viable mussels to be identified in Idaho since March of 2017.  Stations operated by the Kootenai-Shoshone Soil and Water Conservation District have inspected over 45,500 boats to date in 2020. 


ISDA’s boat inspection stations serve an important role in preventing the introduction or movement of invasive species and noxious weeds, which could be devastating to the health of Idaho’s waterbodies and the state’s economy. 


The inspection station season will close in the coming weeks. The ISDA also 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 and location of inspection stations is available on the ISDA website: http://invasivespecies.idaho.gov/watercraft-inspection-stations/.


Idaho has invested significant funding and energy into preventing the spread of devastating invasive species in the state. There is no one solution to a potential problem of this magnitude, though, and Idahoans’ continued vigilance is our best defense.


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