SALEM, Ore. - Boating season is starting, and people hauling both motorized and non-motorized boats must stop at watercraft inspection stations opening around Oregon next week. Large orange “Boat Inspection Ahead” signs followed by “Inspection Required for All Watercraft” alert motorists.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife inspection stations in Ashland and Ontario are now open year-round. Stations opened Monday in Brookings, Klamath Falls and Umatilla, while stations in Lakeview and Burns open in May. Although Lakeview and Burns are not expected to be busy stations, they have an important role in intercepting boats coming from quagga-infested Lake Mead in Nevada.
Inspecting boats coming into Oregon has proven effective so far in keeping aquatic invasive species including mussels, snails and plants out of the state. Rick Boatner, ODFW invasive species coordinator, says it’s extremely important people stop at these stations and get their boats inspected.
“It’s our first line of defense in keeping aquatic invasive species such as mussels, plants and snails out of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest,” Boatner said. “It takes just five to 10 minutes in most cases. You’re protecting Northwest waters and preventing yourself from possibly receiving a $110 fine for by-passing a check station.”
All vehicles carrying motorized or non-motorized boats, including canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and sailboats must stop. Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permits are required for most boaters in Oregon.
After finding contaminated boats coming into the Ashland watercraft inspection station during spot checks in winter 2016-17, Boatner decided to keep both Ashland and Ontario open year-round. Oregon is the only known state to do this and the results back up Boatner’s decision.
From January through mid-March 2018, technicians inspected 464 vessels in Ashland and 585 in Ontario. Boats from Lake Michigan and the Florida gulf contaminated with zebra and brown mussels were inspected. The Ashland Watercraft Inspection Team also inspected a boat from Lake Mead that was previously decontaminated and still found an additional 248 quagga mussels. The team inspected the boat at the owner’s residence.
Invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels can be difficult to spot – they range in size from microscopic to up to two inches, and attach themselves to many areas on boats that are hard to see. They can also live as long as 21 days out of water.
New Zealand mud snails are also tiny, just three to six millimeters long and easily attach themselves to boots, waders and fishing gear.
In 2017, ODFW technicians inspected 21,035 watercrafts and intercepted 17 with quagga or zebra mussels and 283 with other types of aquatic invasive species such as Eurasian milfoil and brown mussels.
Watercraft with quagga or zebra mussels came from Lake Powell, Lake Mead, Lake Havasu, Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario and the Fox River in Illinois.
“The program is working,” Boatner said. “Everyone who boats needs to make sure their boat is cleaned, drained and dried before putting in at another water body. Anglers should be vigilant about cleaning all their gear.”