Cleaning, draining and drying properly: Watercraft inspectors learn to detect invasive species, educate boat owners

Published: Feb. 15, 2018 at 3:37 PM MST
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The Idaho State Department of Agriculture holds a watercraft inspector training at County West in Twin Falls for two days to prevent invasive species from coming into the state.

According to the state invasive species coordinator, three stations in southern Idaho will start Feb. 17, a little earlier than other stations in the state.

"They will run through the season, through the whole summer season and close in October," said Nic Zurfluh, the invasive species coordinator.

Invasive Species Director for Twin Falls County Kali Sherrill said it's important to start earlier because "we do have a lot of people that go south for winter."

"They want to take their boats down, and so it's important for our station to be open early," Sherrill said. "That's where the cooperation comes in and it's a great cooperative effort statewide."

The three watercraft inspection stations that will open Saturday are at U.S. Highway 93 in Jackpot, Cotterell on Interstate 84 and I-15 in Malad.

The two-day training held on Thursday and Friday are to get inspectors "up to speed" on how to properly inspect a watercraft for aquatic invasive species.

"And how to talk to the owners on the importance of cleaning, draining and drying their boat if they're coming into the state," Zurfluh said.

The training includes basic biology of the aquatic invasive species quagga mussels and zebra mussels, boat anatomy and how to inspect certain watercraft equipment.

"They are inspecting boats as they are coming into the state to look for aquatic invasive species, mainly quagga and zebra mussels that attach to boats, because we don't have them in Idaho or the Pacific Northwest, and we're trying to prevent quagga and zebra mussels from coming into the Snake River and the greater Columbia drainage," he said.

Zurfluh said last year, the state performed 93,000 inspections and intercepted 31 watercraft coming into the state that had the invasive species on them.

"Two of those were deemed to be viable mussels attached to the boat," he said.

Sherrill said for the U.S. Highway 93 station, they saw about 1,800 watercraft inspected last year.

"We had five boats that were infested with the quagga and zebra mussels and one boat that had live mussels on it that was impounded for 30 days," she explained.

For the boats that are infested with the mussels, inspectors help properly decontaminate the watercraft.

"The main thing is, if the mussels are dead, the boat is hot washed and inspected very thoroughly, and hot washed then re-inspected," Sherrill said. "Then the state will find out where it's headed. If it's headed to another state, then that state is then notified. There is no cost to the boat owner or watercraft owner,"

A part of the class, instructors like Zurfluh show how to properly inspect a boat.

"The main purpose of inspecting the boat is you want to start in one spot, end in the same spot. Focus below the waterline, really look and feel the entire boat," he explained.

Zurfluh said to make sure they inspect all compartments inside the boats, and check all other parts of the boat that go under water like anchors.

Another component of the training is to talk to the owners about cleaning, draining and drying their boat properly.

Other watercraft stations will not be open until the spring, and these trainings are done annually, according to Zurfluh.

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