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Invasive species found on boat launching at Lake Whatcom

Posted: June 23, 2014 2:57:13 PM PDT

Lake Whatcom Management Program (LWMP) aquatic invasive species inspectors discovered dead quagga mussels on a 17-foot ski boat on June 14 at the Bloedel Donovan boat inspection station at Lake Whatcom, located in Bellingham, Washington.  It is the first boat found to be contaminated with the invasive mussels since mandatory watercraft inspections began at Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish in April 2013.

“This shows that our system is working as it should,” Mayor Kelli Linville said. “This is further proof that the partnership between the City, the County, and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District is functioning well. We need to ensure that other jurisdictions have similar programs available to stop the spread of invasive species throughout the state’s natural resources.”

Allen Pleus, aquatic species coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, assisted the LWMP in inspecting and decontaminating the boat.

“This experience shows why a strong system for intercepting invasive mussels and other species is so important in our state,” Pleus said. “There are still many gaps that these aquatic invaders can slip through, but LWMP did excellent work in stopping this boat before it could be launched into Lake Whatcom.”

The boat was intercepted by the LWMP's aquatic invasive species (AIS) check station when it entered Bloedel Donovan Park. The boat had last been used by a previous owner at Lake Havasu, Arizona over a year ago and had been in dry storage in Olympia, Washington for the past year before being purchased by the current owner.

The boat had several dead, juvenile life-stage quagga mussels on the outdrive gimbal area. These mussels were physically removed and the boat was decontaminated using 140 degree, high-pressure water.

The LWMP has been operating a mandatory watercraft inspection program at Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish since April 2013. More than 5,000 inspections of both motorized and non-motorized watercraft have been conducted to date.  In addition to quagga and zebra mussels, inspectors are looking for invasive aquatic plants and New Zealand mudsnails.

Quagga mussels were first discovered in the Great Lakes in the late 1980s and by 2007 had been transported west to Lake Mead in Arizona/Nevada.  Since 2007 they have spread to waterways in several other Western states, and watercraft contaminated with these mussels continue to be intercepted at Washington State borders each year.

If transported to Whatcom County lakes, these mussels pose the risk of serious and costly impacts by damaging public and private water intakes, docks, boats, and other shoreline infrastructure. These AIS could also render shoreline areas hazardous and unusable for recreational users and property owners.  Additionally, mussel infestations cause long-term taste and odor problems in drinking water and displace native aquatic species.

To avoid introducing AIS, such as zebra and quagga mussels, recreational boaters and anglers should clean, drain, and dry their watercraft, trailers, and equipment prior to moving from one body of water to another. Boaters should clean off any mud, vegetation and debris, drain any water from where they last launched and then thoroughly wash and dry their boats when they get home.

More information:

AIS Rapid Response - Incident Report, June 14, 2014 (PDF)
Whatcom Boat Inspection Program
AIS Awareness Course


Media Contact:
Teagan Ward, AIS Coordinator for Public Works Department

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