Sheriff's deputy intercepts boat infested with invasive mussels

ONTARIO, Ore. - A pontoon boat infested with invasive mussels was intercepted by a sheriff's deputy and decontaminated Tuesday, state officials said.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife technicians discovered quagga mussels on a pontoon houseboat on May 20 at the Ontario boat inspection station in eastern Oregon.

It was the first boat of the 2014 inspection season found to be infested with the invasive mussels.

The driver hauling the Texas watercraft had bypassed the Ontario check station and was stopped by a Malheur County Sheriff.

Motorists hauling boats in Oregon are required to stop at boat inspection stations to have their watercraft inspected for aquatic invasive species under a 2011 Oregon law. Failure to stop at an inspection station could result in a $110 fine, ODFW said.

The boat had a large number of the juvenile life stage quagga mussels on the hull and outboard motor, according to ODFW, and was decontaminated at the inspection station with a high-pressure hot water cleaning.

"Boat owners have to take their responsibility to launch a clean boat seriously," said Rick Boatner, ODFW Invasive Species Coordinator. "If we are going to keep mussels out of the state, all boaters who use the state's waters have to do their part."

The Pacific Northwest, including Alaska and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, is the "only place on the continent" unaffected by the quagga and zebra mussel invasions that have devastated ecosystems and local economies, ODFW said.

In 2013, ODFW technicians conducted 7,441 watercraft inspections and 279 watercraft decontaminations. Seventeen of those boats contained either quagga or zebra mussels. All boats were decontaminated.

In addition to quagga and zebra mussels, inspectors are looking for aquatic plants and New Zealand mudsnails.

Inspections generally take less than 10 minutes.

2014 Boat inspection stations

Ashland: I-5, Ashland Port of Entry, 7 days a week, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Ontario: I-84 and Hwy. 20 at Ontario Rest Area, 7 days a week, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Gold Beach: Hwy 101, Wed.-Sun., 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. *

Klamath Falls: Hwy 97 at Midland Rest Area, Wed.-Sun., 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. *

Lakeview: Hwy 395, south of Lakeview, Wed.-Sun., 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. *

* Days and hours subject to change