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Idaho intensifies boat washing efforts while awaiting mussel treatment results

 Boats are required to be decontaminated before and after entering the Snake River at Centennial Park in Twin Falls
Rachel Cohen
/
Boise State Public Radio
Boats are required to be decontaminated before and after entering the Snake River at Centennial Park in Twin Falls

As Idahoans start to venture outdoors this spring, state officials are intensifying their efforts to halt the spread of invasive quagga mussels in the Snake River.

At the base of the Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, a few state-owned boats are queued up for a hot water spray-down. Now, all boats and kayaks must be decontaminated before and after being on this river stretch.

The water body is considered “positive” for the next five years, following the detection of both the larval form of the mussels and one adult last fall.

As more recreationists begin utilizing this popular waterfront park, the state plans to ramp up decontamination efforts by adding more wash lanes.

A new state law also requires all boats coming from out-of-state to get a hotwash before entering any Idaho waterway.

“So, rather than if you pass by a station you have to stop, it is an actual requirement if you're coming in from out of state, you now have to get a hotwash before you launch in Idaho,” said Chanel Tewalt, the director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

“The hope there is to mitigate risk, which is primarily out of state.”

Additional wash stations may be set up elsewhere, and counties can apply to be reimbursed for their own quagga mussel defense efforts.

The state poured tens of thousands of gallons of a copper-based chemical into the river to eradicate the mussels last fall.

It hopes that none are left, but that won’t be known until May or June. That’s when the water would be warm enough for the mussels to begin reproducing again and their babies, free-flowing in the water, would be detectable in water samples.

While Centennial Park in Twin Falls is open to boaters, the river between Pillar Falls and the Twin Falls Dam remains closed until the state knows whether mussels are still present.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on X @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

Rachel Cohen joined Boise State Public Radio in 2019 as a Report for America corps member. She is the station's Twin Falls-based reporter, covering the Magic Valley and the Wood River Valley.