The National Park Service (NPS) is joining the fight against aquatic invasive species (AIS) in a big way.

As reported at the conference by managers throughout the region, invasive zebra and quagga mussels pose the greatest threat to Northwest waterways. An infestation could cost hundreds of millions of dollars annually to infrastructure and personal property if not dealt with effectively.

Fortunately, Lake Roosevelt is currently free of these mussels. Other AIS species in our midst, however, include Asian clams, northern pike, Eurasian milfoil, and crayfish.

NPS has secured funding for a new staff person and seasonal work crew, purchase of 6 hot water decontamination units, and public outreach materials. On point is Meghan Lyons, who joins NPS staff after 10 years working in fisheries in the Colville National Forest. Said Lyons, “The biggest thing people can do is clean, drain and dry their boat every time they go in and out of a waterbody.”

A high visibility piece is putting into service 6 hot water decontamination units purchased earlier this year by NPS. “Three of these units will be used by NPS staff, and three will go to our partners: the Spokane Tribe of Indians, Colville Confederated Tribes, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW),” said Lyons.

This year NPS will, on randomly selected days, conduct inspections and place decontamination units at various boat launches. Said Lyons, “Starting in mid-June we’ll pick popular, frequently used boat launches.” Here’s what to expect if you arrive at a boat launch with inspection activities:

  • A seasonal crew will ask you where you’re boat’s been the last thirty days. If it’s local waters and the boat is clean and dry, inspection could be done in 5 to 10 minutes.
  • If your boat has come from Lake Mead or other waters known to be infested, the inspection could take 15 – 30 minutes. Even if nothing is found a hot water decontamination may be suggested because the presence of AIS can be very hard to detect.

Those doing inspections will also provide brochures and other information to educate and inform the public, including teaching boaters how to do their own inspections. Signage advising people of WA State AIS regulations will be posted at boat launches. And NPS is providing a phone number (509-754-7869) to encourage people to reach out for assistance, including scheduling a time for hot water decontamination.

“Really,” said Lyons, “the best thing for folks coming from infested areas is to have your boat out of the water, clean and dry for a week or longer. The next best thing is to call us and ask questions. We’re here to help.” Two excellent web resources are from WDFW (wdfw.wa.gov/ais), and the 100th Meridian Initiative (100thmeridian.org).

With 22 boat launches operated by NPS and additional ones operated by tribes, it’s certainly possible to avoid inspection. “This only works,” said Andy Dunau, the Forum’s Executive Director, “if people see this as doing their part to protect Lake Roosevelt and protect property. The benefits of finding and addressing problems before they get in the lake are enormous.”

WDFW will operate their decontamination unit out of their Spokane Office. Those trailering boats from other areas can call ahead for inspection and assistance. In addition, those stopped at Idaho or other inspection stations can be escorted to WDFW’s Spokane Office to address matters of concern.

The Spokane Tribe of Indians and Colville Confederated Tribes are determining how to integrate decontamination units into existing staff time and resources.

On the monitoring and inventory side of the equation, this summer NPS will be focusing on locating and mapping AIS like Eurasian milfoil and crayfish. As for suppression, they’re encouraging catch and permanent removal of northern pike and non-native crayfish.