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Boat inspections fight invasive species

We were driving on I-5 near Ashland and saw a sign for boat inspections on the highway. It seemed like a funny place to inspect boats. What is that about?

— Nancy M., Medford

What you saw, Nancy, was an aquatic invasive species boat inspection station. All vehicles carrying motorized or nonmotorized boats (kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, sailboats, etc.) are required to stop when they see the orange "Boat Inspection Ahead" signs followed by a white "Inspection Required for All Watercraft" sign.

Failure to stop at an inspection station could result in a $110 fine.

Inspections generally take less than 10 minutes if boats are free of aquatic invasive species, according to a news release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. If a boat is found to be contaminated with quagga or zebra mussels, New Zealand mudsnails, aquatic plants or other aquatic invaders, it will be decontaminated on site by the watercraft inspection team. There is no penalty or cost for the boat owner if their boat is found to contain invasive species.

There are five boat inspection stations in Oregon — in Ashland, Gold Beach, Klamath Falls, Lakeview and Ontario.

"Prevention is the only way to keep aquatic invasive species out of Oregon's waters," said Rick Boatner, ODFW invasive species coordinator. "Boaters have to be conscientious about cleaning, draining and drying their boats and stopping at inspection stations in every state they travel through."

In 2013, ODFW technicians conducted 7,441 watercraft inspections and 279 watercraft decontaminations. Seventeen of those boats contained either quagga or zebra mussels. All boats were decontaminated.

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.