COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Idaho inspectors have already intercepted 14 boats carrying invasive mussels into the state nearly a month into inspection season, officials said.
Officials have checked more than 7,000 watercraft at inspection stations across the state so far this year, the Coeur d'Alene Press reported Tuesday.
Nearly 110,500 vessels were checked last year, with inspectors finding 50 boats carrying mussels. Most of the mussel detections occurred at the Interstate 90 inspection station east of Coeur d'Alene.
The state requires boat owners to stop at the stations.
"If quagga or zebra mussels were to infest Idaho's waters, as they have done in other states, it could cost the state nearly $100 million annually in damage and lost revenue," said Nic Zurfluh, invasive species manager for the state Department of Agriculture.
Invasive mussels can clog pipes in water systems, damage boat motors and affect other aquatic life. They are hard to eradicate and can spread quickly. A lake infested with mussels can also lose recreational value, the department said.
"The spread of aquatic invasive species like mussels would threaten the Idaho we know and love," Zurfluh said.
The department and its partners monitor more than 80 bodies of water in the state for mussels. No invasive mussels have been found in the state or the Columbia River Basin so far, but the threat remains, Zurfluh said.
"We assume Idaho and the Columbia River Basin are at risk for infestation, and our program is actively working to prevent that from happening," Zurfluh said.