SPOKANE, Wash. - Officials from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife gathered near the Idaho state line on Friday, showing off the state's first permanent watercraft inspection and decontamination station. The station is on the lookout for the extremely invasive Zebra and Quagga mussels that can be carried by water craft across state lines.
"An ounce of prevention is worth hundreds of millions of dollars dealing them once they are here," said Captain Eric Anderson, with WDFW Aquatic Invasive Species Enforcement.
He said Quagga and Zebra mussels have taken over many of the countries waterways and that the Columbia River Basin is the last in the contiguous U.S free of mussel invaders.
"If they get into the state, it would affect every Washington citizen," said Anderson. "They will affect all the hydro-electric dams on the rivers, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. "
He said they would also affect irrigation systems and ecosystems.
"They alter the food web, they filter all the nutrients out of the water and completely disrupt the ecosystem," he said.
With that, WDFW officials are requiring all commuters with watercraft to stop and be inspected. Transporting invasive species into the state is a misdemeanor, but for those who stop and are found to have the mussels, you will not be charged as long as you follow decontamination protocol.
Quagga and Zebra mussels reproduce extremely quickly and have no predators in the U.S.
Highlighting the gathering was Popeye the mussel sniffing dog. He was able to smell and inspects boats much quicker than the usual technicians.
"We look for a dog that is completely ball crazy and then take that natural instinct and turn it into a game of hide and seek," said Debi Deshon, with Mussel Dogs.
Popeye was only at the station for the day, but after seeing him in action WDFW officials say they are planning to add their own dog to the station.
That addition is dependent on a Department of Reclamation grant.
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