Idaho's mussel man Anderson carries infestation fight to Washington

Idaho Republican Rep. Eric Anderson is proud that Idaho Agriculture inspectors prevented a potential biological disaster in the Pacific Northwest a week ago when they stopped barge carrying living quagga mussels from Lake Mead.

Their efforts and the cooperative response from the states of Washington and Nevada got 41 barges decontaminated of the invasive alien snails that already have caused ecological havoc in the Great Lakes.

“This is the type of thing that has to happen before people think maybe government is going to do the right thing here,” Anderson said.

Anderson, of Priest Lake, led the charge to require boaters to pay up to $22 for a sticker to cover the costs for the state’s mussel inspection and decontamination program.

Zebra and quagga mussels are exotic mollusks that threaten the environmental health of freshwater lakes and rivers in the United States. Adults have a semi-D shaped, bivalved shell with light and dark brown or black stripes.

Transoceanic ships discharged ballast water with microscopic zebra mussel larvae into the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s. Since then the mussels have spread rapidly because of its high reproductive rate and its planktonic larval stage that, unlike that of native mollusks, does not require a host fish.

Quagga mussels easily adapt wherever oxygen, food, and calcium levels are adequate, and currents are not too swift. They are spread by flowing waters that carry the larvae downstream and by commercial and recreational vessels. Zebra mussels have the ability to attach themselves to boats and other hard surfaces and can live up to two weeks out of water.

That why Anderson has not given up. He has sent 500 Idaho license plates down to Lake Mead where they are underwater collecting the fast growing mussels.

He will then display the mussel-crusted plates where boat stickers are sold.

He’s getting ready to go back to Washington D.C. to work with the Idaho congressional delegation to pressure the Obama administration to get the Park Service involved in the mussel prevention crusade. Already $1 million has been appropriated to expand the decontamination program around Lake Mead, the major threatening source of mussels in the West.

“The problem with this is it’s a biological wildfire but it’s hidden by water,” Anderson said. “We have to regionalize our efforts. We have to work together and we have to coordinate the limited funds we have.”

Yeah, let's infest Congress with them mussels!

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