Pacific Northwest 'only place on the continent' unaffected by quagga mussel

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      EUGENE, Ore. - They're known as quagga mussels.

      They may look relatively innocuous, but these little creatures can completely change the face of an ecosystem.

      As temperatures rise and boaters start to hit the water, authorities are reminding people to prepare before paddling out.

      Deputy Charles Douglas patrols Lane County waterways, and says part of that preparation is making sure you have you Invasive Species Prevention Permit.

      Currently, things like quagga mussels aren't an issue in Lane County.

      "If you look at a map of the United States and where the different invasive species are located, there's this little clean spot marked Oregon. And what we're doing is we're trying to delay that as long as possible," says Douglas.

      That delay is thanks, in part, to programs funded by Aquatic Invasive Species Permits.

      "Monies from that," said Douglas, "they're specifically used for three different mobile cleaning stations, and for education about, and for enforcement of the permit. So the monies actually go towards actually keeping the money clean directly."

      Douglas says it's a fairly frequent occurrence for him to come across a boater without a permit.

      Any canoe, kayak, drift boat, or water craft longer than 10 feet must have an invasive species permit. A pontoon boat infested with invasive mussels was intercepted by a sheriff's deputy and decontaminated Tuesday, state officials said.

      Quagga mussels found this week on boat

      Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife technicians discovered quagga mussels on a pontoon houseboat on May 20 at the Ontario boat inspection station in eastern Oregon.

      It was the first boat of the 2014 inspection season found to be infested with the invasive mussels.

      The driver hauling the Texas watercraft had bypassed the Ontario check station and was stopped by a Malheur County Sheriff.

      Motorists hauling boats in Oregon are required to stop at boat inspection stations to have their watercraft inspected for aquatic invasive species under a 2011 Oregon law. Failure to stop at an inspection station could result in a $110 fine, ODFW said.

      The boat had a large number of the juvenile life stage quagga mussels on the hull and outboard motor, according to ODFW, and was decontaminated at the inspection station with a high-pressure hot water cleaning.

      "Boat owners have to take their responsibility to launch a clean boat seriously," said Rick Boatner, ODFW Invasive Species Coordinator. "If we are going to keep mussels out of the state, all boaters who use the state's waters have to do their part."

      The Pacific Northwest, including Alaska and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, is the "only place on the continent" unaffected by the quagga and zebra mussel invasions that have devastated ecosystems and local economies, ODFW said.

      In 2013, ODFW technicians conducted 7,441 watercraft inspections and 279 watercraft decontaminations. Seventeen of those boats contained either quagga or zebra mussels. All boats were decontaminated.

      In addition to quagga and zebra mussels, inspectors are looking for aquatic plants and New Zealand mudsnails. | Learn more about the program

      Inspections generally take less than 10 minutes.

      2014 Boat inspection stations

      Ashland: I-5, Ashland Port of Entry, 7 days a week, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.

      Ontario: I-84 and Hwy. 20 at Ontario Rest Area, 7 days a week, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.

      Gold Beach: Hwy 101, Wed.-Sun., 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. *

      Klamath Falls: Hwy 97 at Midland Rest Area, Wed.-Sun., 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. *

      Lakeview: Hwy 395, south of Lakeview, Wed.-Sun., 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. *

      * Days and hours subject to change