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Invasive quagga mussel larvae found in Idaho

Courtesy Idaho Department of Agriculture

Idaho state agriculture officials say a pesky invasive specieshas been found near the Snake River north of Twin Falls, in south central Idaho.

The agency says it has found several samples of quagga mussel larvae in a waterfront park near Twin Falls. It has ordered all the boat ramps in the area closed and begun trying to assess how widely the pest has spread. Once inspectors are able to determine that, they hope to devise a strategy to control it.

The quagga and its cousin, the zebra mussel, have been on Idaho’s radar for years. In 2009, the legislature authorized inspectors to set up shop in border areas to check boats coming into the state. There are several stations along I-90 and other highways in the Panhandle. The goal, according to a state video, is to catch the pest before it can be introduced into a lake or river.

Although officials are looking for all variety of invasive pests, the mussels are at the top of the list, according to this video created by the state.

“Once the mussels invade lakes, rivers or reservoirs, they are impossible to control," according to an Idaho Department of Agriculture video. "One female lays one million eggs at a time. Just two years after quagga mussels infiltrated Lake Mead, they now number three trillion and they spread further. Boaters from Lake Mead unwittingly spread quagga mussels to parts of California, Colorado and Utah.

“Once established, the mussels populate rapidly, clinging to hard surfaces, such as boat motors and hulls, clogging water intake pipes, plugging hydropower systems and destroying native fisheries."

If the mussel finds its way into Idaho, officials estimate the state could ultimately spend up to a hundred million dollars every year, fixing the problems it causes.

Washington also operates a boat inspection program aimed at detecting invasive species. In eastern Washington, free inspections and decontaminations are offered at a rest stop near Liberty Lake and in Ephrata.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.