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Environmental invaders threaten Idaho waterways

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - As the ice thaws and boaters prepare to hit the waterways, the Idaho Department of Agriculture is asking people to keep Idaho's lakes and rivers clean of invasive species.

Species such as the Zebra Mussel pose major threats to Idaho's enviornment and waterways.

You might think the harsh winter would help the fight against non-native pests, but according to invasive species specialist Cole Morrison, it'll only help the environmental invaders.

"A lot of our invasive species are more geared up to deal with harsh freezes. It doesn't get that cold here in Idaho as it as opposed to other places in Eurasia. So it actually doesn't impact them in the same way," Morrison said. "In addition to that, we've had actually a really good water year. Which is a blessing, considering the drought that we've been going through. But that actually means that there's more resources for these invasive species."

Invasive species don't just impact the native animals or plant life. Morrison compares a non-native species to a biological wildfire.

An infestation can affect everything from farming to statewide infrastructure.

"These things will get introduced into an area and they just rip through the area...American Falls where we have Idaho power has facilities there that help to produce electricity for the community. If they get introduced there, these things are going to clog up the machinery. Idaho Power has to pay to have those needs are treated. Then that cost gets passed on to us as consumers," Morrison said.

According to a 2009 study by an Idaho special taskforce, zebra mussel would cost the state over $94 million dollars a year in damages. That's more than $130 million in today's money.

Which is why every boat is required by law to check in at a watercraft inspection station.

"How mussels got into the United States was in the late eighties on the ballast tanks of ships," Invasive species biologist Maddie Patterson said. "We're seeing the same concept on a smaller scale with export boats that are moving ballast water around. So it's very important that you drain your boat before you leave the water body or recreating that and come to Idaho."

Watercraft inspection stations are open in southern Idaho and more will open in the East Idaho area as it gets warmer.

Article Topic Follows: Idaho

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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.


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