Invasive species, including weeds and aquatic invaders, have the potential to wreak environmental havoc on Idaho lands and waters. From head-high spotted knapweed infestations to milfoil choking out Hayden Lake bays, these non-native species are already affecting our water supply, soil health, wildfire behavior and other ecological processes. However, the state of Idaho does not have any central entity to coordinate the threats that invasive species pose to Idaho.
Senate Bill 1068 seeks to correct that by establishing an office of invasive species policy. The need for the measure is especially urgent after the recent discovery of invasive mussels in two central Montana reservoirs (Tiber Reservoir and another suspected infestation in the Canyon Ferry Reservoir).
Quagga and zebra mussels have the potential to cause significant harm in Idaho’s rivers, streams, reservoirs in canals. Mussels in the Great Lakes cost the region an estimated $5 billion in losses. The Idaho Invasive Species Council estimated in 2009 that an infestation in Idaho would have a $94 million impact on dams, marine infrastructure, drinking water systems and boats. To mitigate the invasion of mussels and other noxious aquatic weeds into Idaho’s waters, mandatory boat check stations were established (paid for by the invasive species boat sticker) and placed along major highways at or near the Idaho State line.
Unfortunately, the state’s inspection program might have to be scaled back if more funding is not earmarked for 2017 because last year’s expenditures exceeded funding allocated for the program.
The inspection program is seen as an important bulwark in keeping zebra and quagga mussels from finding a home in Idaho. The dreaded bivalves adhere and form clumps to virtually any hard surface in the marine environment and disrupt water quality by stripping out nutrients.
The inspection stations in Idaho have intercepted 165 mussel-fouled vessels since 2009. The stations inspected 89,390 boats in 2016 and intercepted 19 vessels contaminated with mussels, four of which were destined for Panhandle waterways. Inspections in 2016 indicated approximately 100 boats came to Idaho from Montana’s Canyon Ferry and about a dozen more came from the Tiber Reservoir.