‘Party barge’ infested with invasive mussels intercepted

Quagga, zebra mussels found on vessel; officials say driver tried to avoid check

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

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A Clark County sheriff’s deputy Friday intercepted a 40-foot lake “party barge” infested with invasive zebra and quagga mussels whose driver allegedly was trying to avoid inspection.

The driver had been stopped in Oregon and was told to pull into the Washington State Patrol’s Port of Entry truck weight and inspection station along Interstate 5 northbound in Ridgefield, said Corey Turner, a commercial vehicle enforcement officer there.

The driver tried to bypass the scalehouse on a side road, but Deputy James Naramore intercepted the trucker and escorted the truck and boat to the scalehouse Friday morning. It’s under orders to stay until officers with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife can have it steam-cleaned, Turner said.

Such mussels are harmful, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department:

“Quagga mussels were first found in Arizona in Lake Mead in January of 2007. They originally came from Eurasia and became established in the Great Lakes in the 1980s. Since being discovered, these prolific invaders have spread rapidly. A single adult quagga mussel can produce a half-million larvae in a single year.

“They colonize rapidly on hard surfaces and can ruin boat motors and clog water intake structures, such as pipes and screens, thereby impacting pumping capabilities for power and water treatment plants. Invasive mussels such as quaggas and the closely related zebra mussels have cost industries and businesses in the Midwest hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance and damage repair.”

They also “threaten native fish and wildlife by consuming available food and by smothering native species,” says Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.

John Branton: 360-735-4513; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops;john.branton@columbian.com.