Department of Ag. reviews data after two months of 24 boat checks

MALTA, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) Since July 21 the boat check station on Interstate 84 in Cassia County has been running 24 hours a day.

“This is a bit of a pilot project to see what the traffic is at night and also how many fouled boats that we get coming through the nighttime hours,” said Celia Gould, the Idaho Department of Agriculture Director.

The Department of Agriculture overseas boat check stations in the state to prevent invasive mussel species from getting into waters. Idaho is one of four states that the species hasn’t gotten into.

If the mussels get in they can cause a headache for infrastructure like dams and pipes.

“If they get into our water the estimated cost to deal with it per year exceeds $94 million,” said Jim Rice, a state senator from District 10.

The East/West Cassia Soil and Water Conservation District manages the station in Cassia County.

“We want to keep the water safe and free from the invasive species,” said Richard Kunau, a board member with the District.

Since the station started running at all times workers inspected 1,270 boats. One hundred and twelve of those were during the extended hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. There were 142 boats inspected from waters fouled with mussels in that time. Nineteen of them were during the extended hours. However, 13 of those were between 10 p.m. and midnight.

If a boat came from fouled waters workers spray it off with hot water to kill any remaining bacteria.

“I think definitely we’ll do expanded hours, whether we do 24 hours or 18 hours, we just don’t know for sure,” Gould said.

The Department of Agriculture will work with state legislature to figure out where they want to do extended hours and how extended they will be.

"If we expand to another one it'll probably be in the northern part of the state so we can see what happens in both the northern and southern part of the state,” Gould said.

A large part of running the station overnight has been Idaho State Police. They have added patrols to keep boat checkers safe and run down the people who drive on by.

“It happens a lot more than you’d think it does,” said Ismael Gonzales, a captain with ISP. “Sometimes people will think hey it’s closed, it’s after dark, it’s after midnight, there’s nobody there and they’ll just drive by and not realize it’s open.”

The station saw a dip in inspections between midnight and six a.m. Only 4 percent of the inspections came during that time.