Officials at a Pacific Northwest Economic Region meeting Thursday in Coeur d'Alene predicted an infestation of Idaho would damage fisheries, hydropower production, tourism and agriculture.
"The impact of these mussels is beyond anybody's wildest thought process," said Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake. "These species out-compete all other things in the ecology when they're introduced."
Amy Ferriter, invasive species coordinator at the Idaho Department of Agriculture, said if the mussels enter Idaho there are no real control options. She said testing has determined mussels currently aren't in Inland Northwest Waters.
Idaho has 15 mandatory boat inspection stations at its borders. Ferriter said it would be too expensive to have inspection stations at the state's 240 public boat launches, the Coeur d'Alene Press reported ( http://tinyurl.com/c5hwzur).
"Our budget is only $850,000 per year," she said.
Ferriter noted that in the past four years, boats from every state but Delaware have entered Idaho.
"This was really staggering to us how far people will bring their boats," she said.
In 2012, workers intercepted 57 boats that had mussels attached. That's up from three boats found with mussels
"The economic impacts are really critical to our province," said Gail Wallin, executive director of the nonprofit Invasive Species Council of British Columbia.
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council, represented by Phil Rockefeller at Thursday's economic leadership forum, works to balance fish protection with economical and reliable hydropower production.
"It makes more sense to prevent for as long as we can, and as successfully as we can, the onset or arrival of this type of infestation," Rockefeller said. "Once imbedded, we won't be getting rid of it, and we will be obliged to pay for this."
Information from: Coeur d'Alene Press, http://www.cdapress.com