Last week, inspecting pontoon boats at an ODFW station on Interstate 5 in Ashland, inspectors discovered quagga mussels, according to a news statement from the agency.
Even though the boat’s owner had cleaned it well before setting off on his voyage from Nevada’s Lake Mead, a few mussels managed to sneak by. Upon arrival at the inspection facility, the dead mussels were found aboard the boat, and the watercraft was thoroughly decontaminated.
An article on quagga mussels from the National Park Service states that they are a problem in Lake Mead and other freshwater bodies. Their destructive potential makes them a serious threat to buildings, water buoys, and underwater archaeological sites.
Because they are far more common and can live from the water’s surface to a depth of 500 feet, the mussels are regarded as the zebra mussels’ “evil cousin.”
The mussels represent a hazard to rivers once exposed because of how rapidly they spread. The lack of natural enemies for the invasive species creates an ideal habitat.
The mussels found aboard the Oregon pontoon boat were dead, but according to Rick Boatner, the invasive species coordinator at ODFW, they may have fallen off and created issues in a nearby lake or stream.
The ODFW has turned to ambient DNA sampling in its search for quagga mussels. There is a financial obligation on the part of the state to determine whether an infestation exists if a deceased mussel finds its way into a stream and its tissue yields a positive DNA result.
Because the invasive mussel species are so difficult to eliminate and may block pipelines and engines, costing millions of dollars in damage, live mussels are even more concerning.
For example, despite concerted attempts to contain it, an infestation has persisted in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area since 2007. The National Park Service reports that the mussels first entered the lake near the Las Vegas Boat Harbor.
Anyone bringing a boat into Oregon, whether a canoe or kayak, must stop at an inspection station before entering the state. Failure to do so will result in a $110 fine.