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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke praises multistate efforts to protect areas from an ecological threat.

July 3, 2017

4 Min Read
BIG TROUBLE: Quagga and zebra mussels are a significant invasive problem for waterways across the West. A multistate, multidisciplinary task force has come up with a plan for keeping them at bay.Utah Department of Natural Resources

Invasive mussels are costing power plants, boaters and others near water plenty in time, resources and money to keep the critters away. Recently, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke praised a package of actions and initiatives developed through collaboration of a wide-ranging group that included Western governors and federal, state and tribal agencies. Their aim is to protect the West from the economic and ecological threats posed by invasive mussels.

The package of actions was compiled in a report developed by more than 70 federal, state and tribal government officials, and includes 41 specific measures to take on the mussels. They have been working for the past three months to deal with the problem. Invasive quagga and zebra mussels clog hydroelectric facilities and irrigation systems, and they can damage aquatic ecosystems.

In the Great Lakes region, invasive mussels cause more than a half-billion dollars in damages annually, and they're changing the local ecosystem. In the West, the Columbia River Basin and the Colorado River Basin have both been impacted.

In his statement praising the group's work, Zinke noted that stopping the spread of invasive mussels and increasing federal-state-tribal coordination are both key priorities to ensure maintenance of hydropower as a clean, reliable source of energy for the West. "Protecting our waterways and ecosystems is not a partisan issue, and I'm glad to work with governors as the states, tribes and federal government combat the spread of invasive species," he said.

Zinke noted that experience in some areas has shown that a hydroelectric dam infested with invasive mussels may spend up to $500,000 per year in extra maintenance to control damage from the pests.

The states participating on the team include Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Agencies involved on the team include staff from Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation(BOR), U.S. Geological Survey, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management. There are also tribes, state representatives, and staff from other departments including the Army Corps of Engineers, the State Department, and the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration participating on the team.

The report package developed by the team includes federal, state, and tribal initiatives. Interior’s bureaus, for example, collectively spend about $8 million a year on combating invasive mussels. In the current fiscal year, the Department of the Interior is increasing that spending by $1 million through the Bureau of Reclamation. In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs recently awarded $683,000 in project funding to tribes in the Pacific Northwest to help prevent the spread of quagga and zebra mussels. In fiscal year 2018, Interior requested that Congress provide BOR with another $4.5 million increase. Likewise, the Army Corps of Engineers previously has committed $5 million to this effort.

Taking action on mussels
The report package also includes a range of specific actions to prevent the spread of the mussels — including inspecting and decontaminating recreational watercraft, a key pathway to the spread of the mussels. Other actions include the following:

• Prevention. The group has outlined an extensive range of actions surrounding inspection of boats and recreational watercraft throughout the West, including on tribal lands, in an effort to keep mussels from moving throughout the region. The programs involve identifying risks and vulnerabilities in key areas and targeting efforts on those areas to help prevent further spread of the invasive mussels. Also included in the prevention actions would be better data capture for improved analysis of issues surrounding the spread of invasive mussels.

• Early detection and monitoring. These efforts involve use of environmental DNA tools for better detection of the invasive mussels, including development of a portable tool that could be used during boat inspections. The monitoring efforts would also continue in key areas in the Columbia and Snake rivers, the Missouri River Basin and other susceptible areas.

• Rapid response. This effort includes not only tools for identifying and assessing tools that can be used for available response; but also a rapid response team that can be "on call" to assist states with sampling to determine the presence of adult mussels.

• Containment and control. Work to compile the best practices, strategies and technologies used at infested facilities to minimize risks and impacts. There also are plans for improved information-sharing in the Columbia River Basin in a multi-stakeholder workshop. The group also advocates the launch of a prize competition to identify innovative concepts to eradicate or prevent mussel infestations in open waters.

• Outreach and education. Expanding the current efforts — including the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers  website — and communication efforts to help inform the public of the risks involved in bringing these species into the region.

• Research. The task force outlines the need to continue research on effective technologies for detection, prevention, control and management of invasive mussels in lab and field settings, and for work to explore the value of dip-tank technology to prevent invasive spread of the mussels.

• Increase capacity. There are several tactics recommended to help states and tribal groups expand their efforts against invasive mussels, including support of cost-share programs, drafting of invasive species plans, and bringing key stakeholders together to create a coordinated strategy.

You can check out the entire report online.

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior

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