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Inspection station cites successes

What is the status of the boat-inspection program for mussels, etc.? Every time I pass the Ashland station, there are no boats, just some inspection folks sitting in lawn chairs under a shade shelter. Any success stories?

— H.C., Medford

If keeping 54 boats infected with everything from quagga and zebra mussels to nasty Eurasian milfoil from entering Oregon means success, H.C., then that's a bona fide yes from the state's invasive species detection crews.

"It was a good, successful year," says Rick Boatner, who manages the boat-inspection crews for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Seventeen of the 4,526 vessels inspected during this summer's mandatory inspections were infected with zebra or quagga mussels, those non-native mussels that have caused millions of dollars in damages elsewhere in the county.

They were decontaminated, as were the 37 other boats that had some sort of other invasive species hitchhiking on them when they were inspected.

Some contained Eurasian milfoil, a non-native plant that already has infected some coastal lakes as well as Crane Prairie Reservoir, growing in such large and deep mats that they restrict boating and swimming, Boatner says.

The boat-inspection crew manning the Interstate 5 corridor at the Port of Entry in Ashland was the busiest of the state's four inspection stations, with the local crew netting 12 interceptions for aquatic invasive species during the 2,079 inspections they logged, Boatner says.

That station was closed at the end of September, but one of the inspectors will still set up the station once or twice a week until it goes back to full time in February, Boatner says.

The other stations in La Grande, Hines and Klamath Falls all were closed last month, he says.

Any boat traveling past an open inspection station is required to stop for a short inspection. Six people who bypassed the stations were issued $110 citations, with four of those cited for passing the Ashland station, Boatner says.

The Oregon Legislature in 2009 created $5 invasive species boat permits to fund a coordinated effort to ensure that environmental wrecking balls such as zebra and quagga mussels don't enter Oregon on boats coming from infected waters.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.