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Clean boats will help protect the fragile balance of Oregon's aquatic ecosystems.

STEELE HAUGEN - Keep your boats clean to protect delicate ecosystems.The Marine Board, Oregon Invasive Species Council and Department of Fish and Wildlife are reminding boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats and equipment to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The effort, in conjunction with border inspection stations, will help protect the fragile balance of Oregon's aquatic ecosystems.

"Clean, drain and dry your boat after every outing," said Glenn Dolphin, the Marine Board's Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program coordinator and 2018 chairman of the Oregon Invasive Species Council.

"Recreational boaters, whether propelled by paddle, oar or motor, can help protect our waterways by draining all water within any interior compartments and letting everything thoroughly dry. If every boater embraces this practice, it will go a long way in preventing the spread of invaders that are already in Oregon," he said.

Aquatic invasive species are nonnative animals, plants, microorganisms and pathogens that outcompete or prey on Oregon's native fish and other wildlife. They can harm the environment, hinder salmon recovery efforts, negatively impact human health and hurt local business economies. They come to Oregon from other states and provinces on trailers, boat hulls, motors, wading boots, fishing equipment and via many other vectors. Once they become established in one lake or river, they can easily spread to more waterways in Oregon.

In addition to boaters taking personal responsibility to ensure their boats are clean, six inspection stations are operating along the Oregon borders targeting out-of-state boats. Inspection stations are open in Ashland, Ontario, Brookings, Klamath Falls, Umatilla and Burns. Ashland and Ontario operate year-round, while the others are seasonal.

All boats being transported are required to stop if an inspection station is open. That includes mounted kayaks, canoes, inflatable boats, stand up paddle boards, catarafts, and trailered boats (including commercially transported boats).

Inspection teams are made up of specially trained personnel from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife who look inside and outside of boats for invasive species. Inspections take approximately 10 minutes. If a boat is contaminated, the inspection team will decontaminate the boat onsite.

Decontamination can take anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour. There is no cost to the boater for decontamination. "It's extremely important that people stop at these stations to get their boats inspected," Dolphin said.

"We need to make sure plants and mussels are kept out of the state. Right now, on average between 20-30 percent of the people transporting boats don't stop for inspections and that's too much of a risk," he said. "All it takes is one contaminated boat. The cost of an AIS infestation is enormous. We've already experienced our worst fears with Diamond Lake. All of us need to take action to protect our waterways."

The inspection stations, equipment and personnel are funded through the sale of AIS permits, which are required on all motorboats and nonmotorized boats longer than 10 feet when boating on Oregon's waterways.

Oregon registered motorboats pay the AIS fee as part of their boat registration, so no additional AIS permit is required. Out-of-state registered motorboats and sailboats must purchase a $20 annual permit. Nonmotorized boats have the option of purchasing a $5 annual or $10 two-year permit. The Marine Board's website is at www.oregon.gov/osmb/boater-info/Pages/AIS-FAQs.aspx.

To do your part to help protect Oregon's waterways, follow these steps:

Clean: When leaving the water, clean all equipment that touched the water by removing all visible plants, algae, animals and mud. Equipment includes watercraft hulls, trailers, shoes, waders, life jackets, engines and other gear.

Drain: Drain any accumulated water from boats or gear, including the bilge and live wells and transom wells, before leaving a water access point. Pull the boat's bilge plug and allow water to drain.

Dry: Once home, fully dry all gear before using it in a different waterbody.

In 2017, ODFW technicians inspected 21,035 boats and intercepted 17 with quagga or zebra mussels and 283 with other types of aquatic invasive species such as Eurasian milfoil and brown mussels.

"There is so much at stake," Dolphin added. "If quagga or zebra mussels get into our waterways, they will have a huge impact on dams, irrigation systems, drinking water supplies and our fisheries."

Researchers estimate that invasive zebra and quagga mussels alone could cost the power industry more than $3 billion, and industries, businesses and communities more than $5 billion nationwide over six years.

"The Pacific Northwest states (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana) are the last region of the country that is not yet invaded by mussels," said Dolphin.

Tribes, the federal government, states and nonprofit organizations have come together to address aquatic invasive species contamination through research, inspection and decontamination efforts and rapid response exercises.

"We've got a great communication network, but we have to remain vigilant. Inspection stations aren't open 24/7, so we need everyone's help," he said.

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