A nightmare scenario played out on the Snake River this fall when quagga mussels were found in the river near Twin Falls during routine monitoring by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA). The discovery of this invasive, non-native species in Idaho is a major problem, and the potential spread to the entire Snake and Columbia River systems would be catastrophic

A mussel infestation would significantly disrupt aquatic ecosystems and trigger widespread economic impacts. In response to the detection of the mussels, ISDA coordinated a rapid response with other state and federal agencies, and treated the river with a copper-based pesticide product called Natrix. ISDA is evaluating whether the pesticide application successfully eradicated the mussels, but it’s unlikely we will know the outcome until next summer. The reality is this section of the Snake River will likely need to be intensively monitored for the next several years to check for signs of quaggas.

While we await the determination on whether the treatments were successful, there is at least one thing we do know… 

More robust prevention is needed

The state’s existing boat check program helped prevent the introduction of quagga mussels for many years, but their discovery shows that we need to strengthen our prevention efforts. Given the significant threat to the environment and infrastructure that invasive mussels pose, ICL is advocating for a more robust prevention plan be put in place—which means additional funding from the Idaho Legislature will be needed. 

An enhanced statewide quagga prevention program should include: 

1) year-round, 24/7 boat check stations at all major entry points to the state, 

2) mandatory watercraft inspection and decontamination stations along the Snake River, and other high-use water bodies, and 

3) new intrastate monitoring stations at popular boat ramps and recreational areas, where appropriate.

Quaggas were able to get a foothold in the Snake River once, we must make every effort to prevent their recurrence. Enhanced invasive species monitoring of Idaho’s lakes, rivers, and streams are clearly warranted.

A Watercraft Inspection Station. Photo courtesy invasivespecies.idaho.gov

In addition, additional funds are needed to restore this section of the Snake River in response to the significant impacts from the copper-based pesticide applied this fall to combat the quaggas. This should include funding for restocking of fish, monitoring, and other investments needed to protect and restore the Snake River.

Get involved!

Given the recent discovery of quagga mussels in the Snake River, it is clear that we need to redouble our efforts to monitor for the potential introduction of invasive mussels into Idaho’s precious waters. With state legislators returning in January, now is the time to contact your representatives and ask them to support enhanced quagga prevention programs, along with  funding to restore the affected section of the Snake River.