Boaters reminded to clean, drain and dry boats and equipment to block invasive species

The Washington Invasive Species Council and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are reminding boaters to “CLEAN, DRAIN and DRY” their boats and equipment to prevent the spread of invasive species and minimize the time spent at mandatory boat inspections at state borders.

“The best way to keep our lakes and rivers clean and free from invasive species is to clean, drain and dry your boats and equipment,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington State Invasive Species Council. “We only have one chance to keep Washington free of these invaders, which wreak havoc on our environment, stop recreation and destroy water-based industries. Once here, invasive species are really hard and expensive to remove. We all must be diligent in making sure we protect our waterways.”

Aquatic invasive species are non-native animals, plants, microorganisms and pathogens that out-compete or prey on Washington’s native fish and other wildlife. They can harm the environment, hinder salmon recovery efforts and damage human health and businesses. They come to Washington from other states and provinces on trailers, boat hulls, motors, wading boots, fishing equipment and in many other ways. Once they become established in one lake or river, they can easily spread to more waters in Washington.

Photo by Morf Morford

Photo by Morf Morford

To protect Washington State waters, follow these steps:

Clean: When leaving the water, clean all equipment that touched the water by removing all visible plants, algae, animals and mud. Equipment includes watercraft hulls, trailers, shoes, waders, life vests, engines and other gear.

Drain: Drain any accumulated water from boats or gear, including the bilge and live wells and transom wells, before leaving the water access point.

Dry: Once home, fully dry all gear before using it in a different waterbody.

“If you are bringing watercraft from another state and think that your boat and gear may carry invasive species, we urge you to contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife before traveling home,” said Allen Pleus, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Aquatic Invasive Species Unit Lead. “Call the state’s aquatic invasive species hotline (1-888-WDFW-AIS) and let us know where you used the boat. If there is a high risk, we can inspect your boat and possibly decontaminate it at little or no cost.”

It’s also the law. It is illegal to transport or spread aquatic invasive species and violators can face a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail and $5,000 in fines.

Mandatory Boat Inspections: To combat the threat, WDFW is ramping up mandatory inspection stations at our borders and high risk water bodies to make sure that infested watercraft don’t slip into Washington.

“There is so much at stake,” said Capt. Eric Anderson of the WDFW Enforcement program. “Invasive species, like quagga and zebra mussels, threaten Washington’s dams, farm irrigation systems, drinking water supplies and our precious natural resources.”

In 2017, WDFW opened two mandatory inspection stations at borders in Spokane and along the Columbia River at Plymouth, southwest of the Tri-Cities. WDFW checked more than 10,000 boats as they entered Washington. This year, the inspections stations will open in early spring and run until late fall.

“We are trying our best to keep invasive mussels out,” said Sgt. Pam Taylor, of the WDFW Enforcement program. “So if you are transporting watercraft into Washington, be prepared to stop!”

Also this year, WDFW has partnered with the National Park Service to provide greater protection of the Columbia River basin. An agreement between the two agencies gives national park rangers at Lake Roosevelt National Area authority to conduct boat inspection throughout the summer. This agreement is considered a groundbreaking move in the fight against aquatic invasive species and could be implemented at other national parks.

Mandatory Prevention Permit for Out-of-Staters: In addition to the inspection stations, people from out-of-state need to buy a WDFW Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit before using their boats and other watercrafts on Washington State waters. New this year, the permits can be purchased online. The prevention permit also is required by seaplane operators and commercial transporters of vessels.

“Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species is serious business,” Pleus said. Researchers estimate that invasive zebra and quagga mussels alone could cost the power industry more than $3 billion, and industries, businesses and communities more than $5 billion nationwide over 6 years.”

“As a boater, your diligence in preventing aquatic invasive species will protect Washington’s water and ensure that future Washingtonians can experience the same water activities that you enjoy,” Capt. Anderson said.

“Washington State and the Pacific Northwest are the last area in the United States to be free of these invasive mussels, and we want to keep it that way,” Bush said.

To protect the Pacific Northwest, tribes, the federal government, states and nonprofit organizations have come together to address this issue through research, inspection and decontamination efforts and rapid response exercises. Learn more about aquatic invasive species by visiting WDFW’s Website.

- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife