Northwest states and Canadian provinces have launched a letter-writing and lobbying campaign to assure that a $1 million appropriation line item in the Department of Interior’s fiscal year 2012 budget is spent to help cut off the spread of invasive quagga-mussels from a main source – the Park Service’s Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
The move comes from The Northwest Power and Conservation Council, state of Idaho, Colorado River Fish and Wildlife Council and Pacific Northwest Economic Region. The NPCC is comprised of representatives of the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington; the Colorado council represents fish and wildlife agencies from Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. PNWER includes membership from Northwest states and Canadian provinces.
The appropriation bill language directs the “implementation of mandatory operational inspection and decontamination stations at Federally-managed or interjurisdictional water bodies considered to be of highest risk,” but doesn’t specifically mention Lake Mead.
All want to prevent the spread of quagga, and zebra, mussels from the Southwest to the Northwest. They fear devastating consequences to the Northwest region’s water-related infrastructure such as hydro projects and irrigation systems and to its environment.
Quagga mussels, a species native to eastern Europe, were initially introduced in the 1980s throughout the Great Lakes and the Ohio River and Mississippi river basins, likely taking the ride across the Atlantic Ocean on cargo ships. Quagga mussels were first detected in the American West in January 2007 at Lake Mead, a reservoir on the Colorado that straddles the Arizona-Nevada border. Quagga or zebra mussels have since then been found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Texas and Utah, but not in the Pacific Northwest.
They have spread via a number of pathways. Adult mussels easily cling to hard surfaces such as boats and can be spread when boats are trailered from one waterbody to the next. “Of immediate concern are the high risk vessels leaving mussel-infested federal water bodies such as Lake Mead,” according to a January letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar from Celia Gould, Idaho state Department of Agriculture director and head of the state’s Invasive Species Council. “More than a dozen fouled boats have been intercepted by the Idaho program that came directly from federally managed waters on the lower Colorado. The majority of these boats originated from Lake Mead National Recreation Area.”
“If quagga mussels and zebra mussels make their way into Pacific Northwest waters, the impacts of these species throughout our region will be extreme – affecting fishing, drinking water, irrigation pipes for agriculture and residential communities, and recreational pursuits such as boating,” Gould said. “Additionally, the economic, social and recreational pursuits influenced by hydropower and other dams will be impacted, as well as gold courses, hatcheries and the aquaculture industry. The consequences of introducing these aquatic invasive species to Pacific Northwest waterways would be devastating.
“If an effective mussel containment program could be implemented at LMNRA in the near term, this action would greatly reduce the number of contaminated boats entering Idaho’s waters,” the Idaho letter said.
PNWER likewise is urging the Northwest congressional delegation to support increased funding for inspections at Lake Mead. A letter dated Feb. 2 asks federal agencies to “implement a comprehensive and effective boat decontamination effort at Lake Mead and other infested water bodies in the West.
“All boats leaving infested waters must be subject to inspection and removal of attached mussels and larval mussels in standing water,” the PNWER letter says. “Quagga and zebra mussels are spreading rapidly through the West on trailered, recreational boats. These mussels are projected to cost millions of dollars to mitigate their impacts if they become established in our region.
“A recent study of the hydropower facilities on the Columbia River indicated that mussels, if they become established, will cost about $25 million per year in added maintenance. These costs, of course, will be passed on to consumers, a potentially crippling blow to an already struggling western economy,” the PNWER letter says. “The State of Idaho has projected that zebra and quagga mussels will cost residents of that state $91 million per year. In addition, these and other aquatic invasive species will have incalculable impacts on native fish and wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, with potentially devastating impacts on threatened and endangered salmonids.”
“While our states have established watercraft inspection and decontamination stations, the chance of contaminated boats entering our waters would be much lower if an effective mussel containment program could be implemented at Lake Mead National Recreation Area,” according to a Feb. 3 letter from the NPCC signed by Chair Joan Dukes of Oregon. “Furthermore, it is critical that such a program be implemented without delay, as seasonal boats will begin returning to Pacific Northwest waters in early spring.”
The $1 million this year would help. But it may be a drop in the bucket in an effort that would have to be sustained over time.
“The enormity of the problem” has been daunting for the Interior Department and Park Service, according to the NPCC’s public affairs chief, Mark Walker. Walker said the Park Service has estimated it would take 72 new full-time equivalent positions at the massive park to implement mandatory inspections of all the boats that come and go 24 hours per day and seven days per week.
The 1.5 million acre park includes Lake Mead, which is the largest reservoir in the United States, and Mohave Lake. There are eight developed boat ramps at Lake Mead, each that can handle about 10 loadings and/or unloadings at one time, according to Park Service biologist Brian Moore.
The park gets 25 million visitors annually, and can see as many as 5,000 boats on Lake Mead on weekends.
“It’s really hard for us to regulate all of the boats” with the available staff, Moore said. The emphasis since 2008 has been on “slipped” boats – water craft that is moored at the park’s licensed marinas. Boats that are moored for a time are the most likely to become contaminated.
The concessionaires that run the marinas must include in the rental contracts the requirement that boats be inspected before they leave the marinas. The park service also posts notices “on every dock and every gate” about the need for boat inspections. But, given the traffic, and again lack of staff, it’s easy for boat owners to skirt such requirements, Moore said. The inspections cost the boaters time and money.
Inspections at the six main park entrances pose logistical and funding issues as well. Since complete inspections and decontamination can take up to five hours, as an example, for a house boat, the entrances would become clogged given the current infrastructure. More law enforcement personnel, as well as inspection personnel, would be needed.
The Park Service does have, again, since 2008, four permanent inspection/decontamination stations working primarily at the marinas. Each was purchased at a cost of about $250,000 and cost $5,000 to install, Moore said. The LMNRA also has two portable units operating.
“We’re trying to get the boaters to comply,” Moore said. “We’d like it to be zero,” he said of the number of contaminated Mead-origin boats found at Northwest inspection stations.
The take home message is that communication and coordination has improved…, but still needs to get better if the Pacific Northwest region is going to ward off what are continuing threats from invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels. The mussels are a feared invader that is literally knocking at the Northwest’s door. No infestations have been found yet, but a total of 23 “fouled” boats – watercraft encrusted with invasive mussels — have been identified so far this year at Idaho border check stations. The infected boats were either cleaned or held until officials are sure the mussels are dead.
“30 days is a safe window. I don’t think anything can live for more than 30 days,” according to Amy Ferriter, the Idaho Department of Agriculture’s Invasive Species Program coordinator. She was one about 70 participants from five western states and five Canadian provinces participating in an invasive species conference held last week in Portland.
The conference was part of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region’s 21st annual summit, focusing on a variety of topics of common interest to the states and provinces. Overall attendance was estimated at nearly 700.
PNWER is a public-private partnership chartered by the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, the western provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan and the Yukon and Northwest territories. The organization is “dedicated to encouraging global economic competitiveness and preserving our world-class natural environment.”
Invasive species – plants and animals alike — are among the primary factors that have led to the decline of native fish and wildlife populations in the United States. The conference was intended to launch the development of regional strategies to address the threat of invasive species to natural resources, the economy and quality of life.
Once established the invasive quagga and zebra mussels can clog water intake and delivery pipes and dam intake gates. They adhere to boats, pilings, and most hard and some soft substrates.
The mussels negatively impact water delivery systems, fire protection, and irrigation systems and require costly removal maintenance.
No infestations have been found in the Pacific Northwest but quagga and/or zebra mussels are nearby. They were found in January 2007 in Lake Mead in the Southwest and since then quagga or zebra mussels have been found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Texas and Utah.
Quagga and zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian sea drainages. They were first introduced to the Great Lakes region of the United States in the late 1980s via ballast water discharge from ocean-going vessels. The mussels have been blamed for severe environmental damage and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure damage.
The mollusks have spread throughout the central and northeastern United States, via a number of pathways. Adult mussels easily cling to hard surfaces such as boats and can be spread when boats are trailered from one water body the next.
Most recently, state and federal officials announced this week that that they had confirmed the presence of juvenile quagga mussels in Lahontan Reservoir in northern Nevada and quagga’s may also be in nearby Rye Patch Reservoir.
“It’s getting a little closer to us,” said Paul Heimowitz, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region.
Conference participants stressed the need for vigilance. Idaho is in the third year of manning border check station specifically aimed at heading off invasions of mussels and other species. The Oregon Legislature passed a bill this year requiring that boats entering the state stop for inspections. Washington and Montana are likewise checking boats.
Oregon state Rep. Bob Jenson, who spoke at the conference, said that in the past only about 25 percent of the boats passing by turned off the road for what were voluntary checks. “We changed the law so it’s a mandatory stop,” Jenson said.
“I think it (the required inspections) will bring in some data that will raise some eyebrows,” said Heimowitz.
The Idaho data is already raising eyebrows with the number of identified infected boats rising from three in the first year of the program to eight last year and now 22 so far in 2011. The most recent was a boat that was headed from Lake Mead up to British Columbia. The boat was checked at the border station at Jackpot, Idaho.
“I do think it’s a function of opening early,” Ferriter said. The check stations, 15 in all, began opening in March as opposed to April or May. A total of 25,000 boats had been inspected for aquatic invasive species and noxious weeds so far this year, Ferriter said. The earlier opening date this season has provided the opportunity to inspect more boats that are coming to or through Idaho from infested waters at Lake Mead, Lake Havasu, Lake Pleasant and the Great Lakes.
Of the fouled boats found so far 14 have come from the Midwest and nine from Arizona or Nevada.
Idaho watercraft inspectors are looking for high-risk boats that have been in quagga mussel- and zebra mussel-impacted states. Commercial haulers bringing boats into, and/or across, Idaho are especially scrutinized. Boats purchased out-of-state and being transported to Idaho or elsewhere are also considered high risk.
Of the fouled boats check this year nine were bound for Washington, seven for British Columbia, one of Oregon, one to Montana and five to Idaho. Coordination and communication has improved but needs to get better.
“We have to unite as a region. Montana can’t do it along; Idaho can’t do it alone,” Ferriter said.
Zebra mussels and quagga mussels range in size from microscopic to the size of a fingernail, depending on the life stage. Water in boat engines, bilges, live wells and buckets can carry microscopic mussel larvae (veligers) to other water bodies.
Multiple state and federal agencies are urging boaters and watercraft users to clean, drain and dry boats and equipment before interstate transport. They should:
- Inspect all exposed surfaces – small mussels feel like sandpaper to the touch
- Wash the hull thoroughly, preferably with hot water
- Remove all plant and animal material
- Drain all water and dry all areas
- Drain and dry the lower outboard unit
- Clean and dry all live wells
- Empty and dry any buckets
- Dispose of all bait in the trash
- Wait five days and keep watercraft dry between launches into different fresh waters
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a $102 million construction contract as part of the project to overhaul the generators in the Third Power Plant at Grand Coulee Dam.
The contract was awarded to Andritz Hydro Corporation of Charlotte, N.C. and will be funded by the Bonneville Power Administration — a regional federal power marketing agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that is self-funded with ratepayer dollars rather than federal taxpayer dollars.
Located on the Columbia River about 90 miles west of Spokane, Wash., the Grand Coulee Dam provides about one-quarter of the total generation of hydroelectric power for the Columbia River System.
“Overhauling the generators in the Third Power Plant is vital to ensuring adequate electric power in the Pacific Northwest,” said Salazar. “This is a great example of not only how the Department of the Interior is working to support clean, renewable energy for the American people but also of how working in partnership with DOE and BPA enables us to do so more efficiently.”
Three of the six generating units in Grand Coulee Dam’s Third Power Plant will be overhauled. These generating units are more than 30 years old, installed in the mid-1970s. The mechanical parts of these units have never been replaced and are beginning to show wear, which reduces reliability and increases power outages.
The generators and turbines will be dismantled and inspected and components will subsequently be either refurbished or replaced and reassembled. Each unit will take 17 months to replace and only one unit at a time will be overhauled. Work begins in March 2013.
Grand Coulee Dam was completed in 1941, and today serves as a multi-purpose facility providing water for irrigation, recreation, fish and wildlife, hydroelectric power production and flood control.
The Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation recently unveiled the first-of-its-kind boat wash decontamination system in a recent demonstration at the Boise office of the Bureau of Reclamation.
The tribes purchased the system to protect their waters from an infestation of quagga and zebra mussels. The tribes depend on the Owyhee, Snake, and Columbia rivers, as well as Wildhorse Reservoir and the Duck Valley Reservation lakes and streams.
The tribes purchased the system from the Prefix Clean Company, which designed and built the system to the specifications provided by invasive species experts in the Northwest. Watercraft are pulled across the wash platform while hot water is sprayed over them for a specified time to assure that the species are killed. The wash water is collected, filtered, purified, and reused. The solid waste is captured in the filters and collection basins to be placed in containers and deposited in a landfill. Hot water and electricity is provided by the self-contained unit.
“We would like to thank the cooperative partners that joined this effort and helped with funding, especially the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho Power Company, Nevada Department of Wildlife, U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, and the Idaho office of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.The Nevada Department of Parks and the Idaho Congressional offices have also provided support, especially the Idaho Department of Agriculture,” said Robert Bear, chair of the tribal business council.
The Shoshone-Paiute Tribes are working with the Nevada Department of Parks and the Nevada Department of Wildlife to place the system at Wild Horse Reservoir State Park to inspect boats traveling north from Elko, Nev., to Wildhorse Reservoir. For boats where mussels are found, decontamination will only be a 5 to 10 minute boat wash instead of the customary month-long quarantine. And both the boat inspection and boat wash are free. “The effort was a work in progress for over a year and required coordination among a lot of people and groups,” said Idaho Council member Jim Yost. “But when we hit an obstacle, we figured a way around it, and this summer we expect to have the system up and running.”
An exotic quagga mussel adult was found on a sailboat hull during an inspection conducted at the Dayton Yacht harbor near Flathead Lake on Saturday, March 5.
John Wachsmuth, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Regional Aquatic Invasive Species coordinator, and volunteer Erik Hanson, a certified mussel inspector, found the single, quarter-inch-long adult quagga mussel attached to the stern of the hull. The mussel appeared to be intact and alive.
The sailboat owner had hauled the boat from Lake Mead in Utah. It had been decontaminated at Lake Mead and inspected by the Idaho Department of Transportation.
Montana officials were notified by the Columbia River Basin Network inspectors on Friday, March 4 that the decontamination procedure might not have been adequate.
Wachsmuth arranged for a local inspection and coordinated further decontamination efforts. The boat is now in dry dock, and will not be launched for at least two months.
State officials say this potential threat of introducing exotic mussels to Flathead Lake was averted thanks to good coordination and communication among AIS workers in Idaho and Montana. The incident, they say, illustrates the danger of exotic mussel introductions due to boats being transferred from water to water.
Wachsmuth urges boaters who are hauling boats of any kind into Montana to be sure that the boats have been decontaminated and inspected by a state agency involved in AIS prevention. He added that boat owners should make sure that the hull and bilge area are clean and dry, and the boat is inspected before the boat is transported.
Boaters who are hauling boats from known infested waters such as Lake Mead should contact FWP at 444-2449, and arrangements with a local inspector will be made.
Rain gauges have gotten a big shot during the final week of May, in addition to a precipitation blitzkrieg across the Columbia River basin’s midsection to start June.
Example: Idaho’s Clearwater River Basin. In mid-April, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that there would be about 35 percent chance this year of refilling the reservoir behind Dworshak Dam on the North Fork of the Clearwater River in west-central Idaho.
The reservoir is a popular summer time playground for boaters and anglers, and a valuable source of water to cool the lower Snake River later in the summer for migrating salmon and steelhead. The North Fork flows into the Clearwater River and then the lower Snake, where in late summer water temperatures climb to levels that are unhealthy for salmon and steelhead.
The 35 percent prediction was based on the fact that the mountains above the Clearwater River basin contained only about half of their average “snow-water equivalent,” and the April 1 Corps water supply forecast was for April through July runoff volumes at 52 percent of average. In mid-April, Dworshak pool was 1,531 feet elevation and inching upward the full pool goal of 1,600 feet by July 1.
By Thursday, things were looking considerably brighter.
“We’re fast approaching a 100 percent probability of refill,” the Corps’ Steve Hall said after a forecast storm materialized, dropping more than 2 inches in nearby Lowell and over an inch in Orofino. There is always uncertainty when considering weather forecasts, but at week’s end the reservoir was filling rapidly.
The dam operators had been idling along, allowing only about 1,100 cubic feet of water per second out of the dam while inflows into the reservoir slowly increased as a result of the annual spring meltdown. In recent days the reservoir elevation had been rising about 1 foot per day to reach 1,583 — just 17 feet from full — by the end of the day Wednesday.
A spate of storms during the last week in May raised the Clearwater drainage’s precipitation total for the month from 94 percent of normal May 24 to 108 percent of normal. And then Tuesday the leading edge of something akin to a pineapple express arrived to dowse the region.
“We’re getting closer to two feet per day right now” Hall said of inflows that were expected to peak at 28 kcfs on Thursday according to Northwest River Forecast Center projections. Rain totals were lesser to the north and particularly so to the south, but the central part of the Columbia River basin received record rainfall in many places.
The Corps, which operates Dworshak, still must balance the desire to refill the reservoir this month with the need to reserve enough space for flood control.
“They were really in the bull’s eye and we’ve got another storm coming in tonight (Thursday),” the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Ted Day said of the Tuesday storm that swept across Portland and directly east into the heart of the Columbia River basin.
That single storm “made a significant difference in the water supply in a number of places,” Day said.
Wetter than normal conditions that prevailed in April and May have helped improve what was a relatively dire situation.
The NWRFC’s May 27 early bird forecast says that runoff past The Dalles Dam on the lower Columbia is expected to be only 66 percent of average from January through July. And the Snake River forecast, as measured at Lower Granite Dam in southeast Washington, is only 60 percent of normal even after the inclement weather of recent weeks.
The Bureau is seeing its system of storage reservoirs filling fast in recent weeks. The rain has dampened irrigation demand and thus eliminated early draws on reservoir water. The Payette River system of reservoirs in Idaho is approaching full, Day said. A month earlier it was predicted that that system would not fill this year.
The Bureau’s upper Snake reservoirs have so far loosed 158,000 acre feet of water, all of it in May, as part of its obligation to supplement flows in the lower Snake and Columbia for migrating salmon and steelhead. Day said that the Bureau expects to provide 427,000, all from willing sellers, this year from its Idaho reservoirs for flow augmentation.
Refill of the upper Snake system is possible though still in doubt, as is topping off the Boise River system in Idaho and the Yakima River system in Washington.
Willamette Valley reservoirs will likely not fill this year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced.
“With rainfall about 75 percent of normal now, we need a very wet spring to fill the reservoirs,” said Dustin Bengtson, Willamette Valley Project operations manager. “The longer we go without any significant rain, the less ability we have to fill them.”
The Corps relies primarily on rainfall during April, May and early June to fill its system of 13 reservoirs in the Willamette River basin. Snow pack provides about 10 percent of the reservoirs’ total water storage; through March, snow pack was about 40 percent of normal. “We track the long-range forecasts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to understand the conditions we might face,” explained Bengtson.
“Their most recent projections indicate flows will be about 75 percent of average through September.” Fern Ridge, Dorena and Cottage Grove are the only reservoirs expected to fill.
Water stored in the reservoirs is critical to meeting downstream water needs throughout the year, including protecting fish and supporting water quality standards. The Corps, in coordination with federal and state fisheries agencies, is reducing normal spring releases from the North and South
Santiam river basin reservoirs through May and may reduce releases elsewhere in the Willamette basin. This will maximize the likelihood that enough water will be available to release through the summer and fall to support spawning of chinook salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Most reservoirs will have recreation opportunities available through the summer, both in and out of the water. For updated information about water and boat ramp levels in the Corps’ reservoirs during the recreation season, the public is encouraged to call 541-937-2131 or visit nwd-wc.usace.army.mil.
The Corps and its partner agencies will continually monitor weather patterns, precipitation, hydrology, water quality and biological conditions and make adjustments as rapidly as possible to address short- and long-term conditions.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates 13 dam and reservoir projects in the Willamette River drainage system. Each dam contributes to a water resource management system that provides flood damage reduction, power generation, irrigation, water quality improvement, fish and wildlife habitat and recreation on the Willamette River and many of its tributaries. Since their completion, the dams have cumulatively prevented over $20 billion in flood damages to the Willamette Valley. For more information, please visit nwp.usace.army.mil.
The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific and Mountain-Prairie regions, collaborating with other partners, have provided funding to enhance regional efforts to detect and prevent the spread of invasive mussels.
These projects are aimed at implementing the new Quagga-Zebra Mussel Action Plan for Western U.S. Waters (QZAP) recently approved by the national Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force.
In collaboration with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the USFWS is supporting a University of Nevada Las Vegas study that aims to improve the ability of national parks, states and other jurisdictions to decontaminate boats infested with settled or larval mussels.
Although many voluntary and mandatory watercraft inspection and cleaning programs have surfaced in the West since the 2007 appearance of quagga mussels, most based on application of heated pressurized water, evidence of incomplete decontamination continues to haunt program managers.
The UNLV project, led by David Wong, will systematically evaluate the efficacy of high-temperature spray water under a variety of real-world conditions to determine how 100 percent mortality can best be achieved.
“This research will be especially helpful for state and local agencies in their efforts to properly decontaminate watercraft using hot pressure wash,” said Stephen Phillips, PSMFC’s aquatic invasive species senior program manager. “With pressure wash being widely utilized in the Western U.S., it is critical we are using the best science tested treatment methods available.”
Early detection and rapid response are critical back-up strategies for preventing the spread of mussels, and the USFWS is also funding a project designed to improve how laboratories detect microscopic mussel larvae within water samples. Three primary larval detection methods are currently used in the West: visual identification using a microscope, visual detection using a computer-aided camera system, and chemical detection of the genetic fingerprint unique to quagga and zebra mussels.
The Bureau of Reclamation, led by Dr. Kevin Kelly working in collaboration with Marc Frischer from the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer from the Darrin Freshwater Institute, will coordinate a study that evaluates and compares these methods.
The study team will prepare samples “spiked” with known quantities of mussel larvae and then distribute those samples “blindly” to over 20 participating laboratories. The resulting measurement of accuracy will help refine methods to minimize errors and help guide investment in expanding analysis capacity in the West.
“Detecting invasive mussels is a needle-in-the-haystack challenge, made particularly difficult when you are looking for a microscopic organism in large bodies of water,” Kelly said. “This study will give us critical information to help refine sample analysis techniques for the upcoming water sampling season.”
These two new projects fall within an existing cooperative program to reduce the threat of non-native mussels and other aquatic invasive species under the national 100th Meridian Initiative. In fiscal year 2010, Congress added $2 million dollars to the USFWS’ budget to enhance quagga and zebra mussel efforts.
“We are incredibly excited about the additional support to combat this economic and environmental problem. Quagga and zebra mussel prevention and control are imperative given that these pests are costing the U.S. billions of dollars annually not to mention the significant impact they are having on our native mussels and aquatic ecosystems,” said Robyn Thorson, director of the agency’s Pacific Region.
The USFWS and its partners are using a three-pronged approach to maximize the impact of these additional dollars.
A portion of the funds will be directed toward inspection and decontamination stations on roads leading to Lake Tahoe in an effort to control the spread of these mussels.
Another portion will support specific quagga and zebra mussel activities addressed in ANSTF-approved state and interstate ANS plans. The federal agency will also direct the remaining funds toward projects directly supporting the highest priority actions in QZAP.
A quagga-zebra mussel scare in late November in Idaho impressed upon officials there, and elsewhere in the Northwest, that urgency, and money, is needed to guard against the ecosystem and infrastructure havoc that can be caused by the invasive mollusks.
Four water samples taken from the Snake River near Milner Dam in south-central Idaho tested positive for veligers, which are larva of the invasive mussels.
A second round of testing ruled out three of the samples but the fourth was “weakly positive,” Idaho Invasive Species Program manager Amy Ferriter told the Northwest Power and Conservation Council Wednesday. But, a third test came out negative. The incident proved to be a stressful experience. “What would you have done” had quagga mussels had in fact been detected in the Snake? Council member Tom Karier of Washington, asked Ferriter.
“What would we have done? That’s the million-dollar question,” Ferriter said. The location was perhaps in one of the worst possible spots for mussels to get a foothold, she said. Veligers and mussels could drift downriver through dozens of dams, including 11 major hydro projects on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers.
The state had developed a program to help address quagga- and zebra-related issues and had a budget, “but it was spent down,” Ferriter said. The budget would have been little help anyway. The state, and other states, have yet to equip themselves with control technology — the weapons to attack a quagga infestation. “It made us realize we’re not monitoring enough,” Ferriter said.
“A lot of what we’re talking about here comes down to money,” said Stephen Phillips of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission staff and a member of the steering committee for the Western Regional Panel of the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force. The panel represents western states. It recently completed the “Quagga-Zebra Mussel Action Plan for Western U.S. Waters.” The action plan is posted online at nwcouncil.org.
The plan received tentative final approval from the task force, an intergovernmental organization dedicated to preventing and controlling aquatic nuisance species, and implementing the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990.
Now the task force and panel are pushing for implementation of seven priority actions described in the plan: coordination, prevention, early-detection monitoring, rapid response, containment and control, outreach and education, and research.
“Without increased action, quagga and zebra mussels will cause irreparable ecological damage and long-term mitigation costs will be in the billions,” the action plan’s executive summary warns.
Eileen Ryce, who is chair of Western Regional Panel and Montana’s aquatic nuisance species coordinator, Ferriter, Phillips and others briefed the Council on the action plan and asked for its support. Money, of course would be appreciated, as would lobbying of Congress or anyone else that might have funding for implementation.
“It comes with a $76 million price tag,” Ryce said of the action plan’s seven priority items. A funding source or sources have yet to be identified yet. “This is a big price tag, but you ain’t seen nothing yet if they get in the system,” Washington Councilor Dick Wallace said of a region heavily dependent on water management machinery that could be negatively impacted by mussels.
No infestations have been found in the Pacific Northwest but regional officials know that quagga mussels are nearby. They were found in January 2007 in Lake Mead in the Southwest and since then quagga or zebra mussels have been found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Texas and Utah.
Quagga and zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian sea drainages and were introduced to the Great Lakes region of the United States in the late 1980s via ballast water discharge from ocean-going vessels. They have spread throughout the central and northeastern U.S., via a number of pathways. Adult mussels easily cling to hard surfaces such as boats and can be spread when boats are trailered from one water body the next.
Congressional researchers have estimated that Dreissenid mussel infestations in the Great Lakes area has cost the power industry $3.1 billion between 1993-1999, with an economic impact to industries, businesses and communities of more than $5 billion, according to the action plan.
Mussels poses ecological problems by impacting aquatic biodiversity and water quality and reducing food sources for native mussels, fish larvae, and zooplankton. The invasive mussels reproduce quickly and can within a year or two clog water intake and delivery pipes, foul dam intake gates and pipes, and adhere to boats, pilings, and most hard and some soft substrates. That can impact water delivery systems, fire protection, and irrigation systems and hydro production.
A recent assessment of the potential economic impacts to the hydroelectric facilities of the Columbia River basin suggest that costs to install chlorination systems to ward off mussels could cost as much $2 million for some facilities with recurring operation costs of $100,000 per year, according to the action plan.
“Effective and decisive actions and support are needed from water management entities at all levels, including state and federal agencies, tribes, private water districts and concessionaires to prevent the introduction of, spread, or respond to an infestation of quagga or zebra mussels,” the plan says.
Efforts to detect and prevent mussel invasions have been started but the develop of development is extremely varied across state, tribal, federal and local agency jurisdictions. A large chunk of the action plan implementation funding, $31 million for coordination, is to complete, knit together and expand those efforts. “This is a large problem that crosses all political boundaries,” Ryce said. Another $26 million would be spent for prevention activities such as inspections and heightened law enforcement.
“We’re going to need to continue the lobbying effort if we’re going to get the money,” said Idaho state Rep. Eric Anderson, who praised the Council for a letter writing campaign aimed at sparking more federal action to control invasive mussels.
“If you look back, how all of this has developed over the year and a half, it’s pretty remarkable” how much progress has been made,” NPCC Chair Bill Booth of Idaho said. His state and Oregon both passed legislation over the past year related to quagga detection and prevention.
“Idaho had a scare because we were looking,” Ferriter said of water sampling for veligers that was conducted this year for the first time. Still, Booth and other members of the Council agreed that more needs to be done. “This is a friendly audience,” Wallace said of the Council.
A new interactive Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife web site offers a county-level view of the $2.5 billion spent in Oregon by fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing enthusiasts in 2008.
The site can be found at dfw.state.or.us. The economic data, which is available at state, regional and county levels, is the result of a survey conducted by Travel Oregon and ODFW that shows residents and nonresidents spent more than $1 billion on trips and $1.5 billion on equipment and activity-related purchases at Oregon-based retailers and suppliers.
The new web site provides easily accessible data valuable to businesses dependent on tourism, destination marketing organizations, conservation groups, tourism managers and recreation retailers and suppliers.
With the data, local decision makers will be able to more accurately evaluate the impact of changes in regulations, habitat, invasive species, land use, fish passage and other activities that could affect fish and wildlife recreation. Data is available on three types of wildlife recreation expenditures: travel-generated, local recreation and equipment purchases.
The study is based on responses from resident and nonresident anglers, hunters, shellfish harvesters and wildlife viewers.
Nearly 2.8 million Oregon residents and nonresidents participated in fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing and shellfish harvesting in Oregon in 2008, according to the report. Of the total number of participants, 631,000 fished, 282,000 hunted, 175,000 harvested shellfish and 1.7 million participated in outdoor recreation where wildlife viewing was a planned activity.
The full report, “Fishing, Hunting, Wildlife Viewing, and Shellfishing in Oregon 2008 Trip Characteristics and Expenditure Estimate,” is also available on the ODFW’s web site as a PDF.
Dean Runyan Associates and The Pulse Group prepared the study for ODFW and Travel Oregon. Dean Runyan Associates has specialized in research and planning services for the travel, tourism, and recreation industry since 1984.