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Follow boating rules to avoid spread of aquatic invasive species

April 20, 2017 GMT

It was recently announced that the Sheridan aquatic invasive species boat check station will be moved from the port of entry north of town to the Sheridan Rest Area off from Exit 23 of Interstate 90. The check station will open April 29 and operate seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

According to a news release, “Boaters who have last launched their boats out-of-state and also boaters traveling past the boat check station are required to stop for a boat inspection.”

For boaters needing a boat inspection outside of those hours, arrangements can be made with the regional AIS specialist by calling 307-683-7715.

The Wyoming Game and Fish reminds boaters that they need to have a current AIS sticker attached to their boat prior to launching. This requirement pertains to all boats — motorized and nonmotorized — with the exception of inflatable boats under 10 feet in length.

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Prices for AIS decals for Wyoming residents are $10 for motorized and $5 for nonmotorized boats; for nonresidents the cost is $30 for motorized and $15 for nonmotorized.

There are plenty of questions a boater might have about the AIS program and the need for inspections and decals, but the bottom line is that the AIS program is trying to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic invasive species. Foremost on the list are zebra and quagga mussels, two small bivalve species that are native to eastern Europe. It is purported that these critters were transported to America in the bilges of ships that sailed into the Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway.

These mussels have the ability to produce lots of offspring; it is estimated that there are 10 trillion mussels in the Great Lakes. The mussels filter feed on microscopic and macroscopic plankton and can filter so well that populations of fish such as alewives, salmon and whitefish that depend on algae for food are impacted and their populations have plummeted.

Another problem that the mussels cause is the fouling of water intake systems — the mussels can clog intake pipes. The repairs that are necessitated cost the Great Lakes economy billions of dollars each year.

The clear water that is created by the filter feeders allows sunlight to reach lake bottoms and create algal and weed growths that can be deadly. They can cause botulism, which is deadly for many aquatic birds.

The sad fact is that once zebra mussels or quagga mussels become established, there is no way to eliminate them. It is imperative to stop them before it is too late.

There are other invasive species that are a problem — plants such as water milfoil and fish such as the stickleback and Asian carp — that have to be stopped before they can become established.

There are aquatic invasive species check stations located at ports of entry throughout Wyoming. If you are bringing in a boat from out of state, you must get it inspected — even if you are just passing through to another state.

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The inspections are fairly quick. If you have not had your boat in waters identified as containing invasive species the inspection should only take three to five minutes. If you have had your boat in waters that do contain invasive species the time may be 10 to 30 minutes.

If your boat has invasive species it will have to be decontaminated. The inspector will spray the exterior and interior of the boat with scalding water (140 degrees). After it is treated the boat will be inspected again to ensure that the procedure was successful. If heavily contaminated the boat might have to be quarantined.

It is important to note that spraying your boat down at the car wash isn’t effective; the water temperature isn’t hot enough to destroy mussels. Bleach is not recommended, although it has been proven to be effective, because it can damage your boat and equipment and bleach’s effectiveness degrades with time after the bottle is open.

The open water boating season is ahead of us. Let’s all do our utmost to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Remember to CLEAN, DRAIN and DRY your boat before you launch and after you have boated. Together we can stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.