OLYMPIA - State, federal and tribal governments are joining together Oct. 23 at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area for the first on-the-ground exercise to prepare for an infestation of quagga and zebra mussels.
“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 at the Washington 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.”
Invasive quagga and zebra mussels are small, nonnative, freshwater mollusks that have caused significant environmental and economic harm in the United States. These mussels 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.
In the Oct. 23 practice exercise, the National Park Service, Spokane Tribe of Indians and WDFW will lead an emergency effort to respond to a scenario where quagga and zebra mussels are verified in 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, which is facilitating 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.”
The exercise will include deploying and testing a containment system, boat inspections at the marina, a boat decontamination station and in-water monitoring by divers and scientists.
“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.”