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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Interior today released a report highlighting the progress made in the fight against invasive zebra and quagga mussels, which can impair the delivery of water and power, diminish boating and fishing, and devastate ecosystem health.

The report comes after U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced in June a set of initiatives to protect western ecosystems and hydroelectric facilities from the destructive species through continued collaboration with western governors as well as federal, state, and tribal agencies.

“I am pleased to share progress made on honoring those commitments,” said Secretary Zinke. “There is more work to do, and Interior is committed to continuing our efforts. With the busy boating season approaching, it is imperative that we are vigilant in taking measures to prevent the spread of invasive mussels and other aquatic invasive species.”

In Fiscal Year 2017, Interior spent $8.6 million to address invasive mussels nationwide. This includes an additional $1 million for the Bureau of Reclamation to establish watercraft decontamination stations, provide educational materials, and continue monitoring efforts.

Interior is currently working on more than four dozen actions to address invasive mussels including preventing the spread of the species to uninfested waters, such as those in the Columbia River Basin in the Pacific Northwest, and containing and controlling them where they are established, such as in Lake Powell and the Lower Colorado River region.

Some highlights since June include:

  • Convening federal, state, tribal, and nongovernmental groups to identify options to strengthen watercraft inspection and decontamination programs at infested waters, such as at Lake Havasu as well as Lake Mead, where the Bureau of Reclamation committed to spending another $150,000 this year to bolster efforts.
  • In the Pacific Northwest, the U.S. Geological Survey, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, and Columbia River Basin partners are mobilizing to improve regional coordination of monitoring efforts to ensure that they are strategic and effective.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission are leading planning efforts to expedite Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultations to ensure a quick response if invasive mussels are detected.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation launched a prize competition seeking innovation solutions to eradicate invasive mussels from large reservoirs, lakes, and rivers in a cost effective and environmentally sound manner.

This work builds on efforts and effective state-federal-tribal partnerships and initiatives in process for decades. Interior and WGA staff have communicated regularly on this initiative since its inception in the spring of 2017.

"Western Governors remain committed to the fight against invasive species on Western lands, including the threat that invasive mussels pose to Western waterbodies,” said the Western Governors’ Association (WGA). “Addressing a threat of this magnitude requires leadership, innovation, and coordination at all levels of government.”

The Department requested $11.9 million in Fiscal Year 2018, including an additional $3.4 million for the Bureau of Reclamation to expand on these and other efforts to prevent, contain, and control invasive mussels. Approximately $3.1 million is in the process of being released under the continuing resolution to support federal, state, and tribal activities such as the purchase and operation of watercraft inspection and decontamination stations in the Lower Colorado River basin, development of facility vulnerability assessments to determine risk for critical infrastructure in the Columbia River Basin, and increasing capacity for the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe at Flathead Lake for their Aquatic Invasive Species program.

First introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980s, zebra and quagga mussels spread outward via recreational watercraft being transported to other regions of the country. Infestations clog power plant, industrial, and public water supply intakes and pipes, dramatically change aquatic ecosystems, and require substantial investments to control. They are among the many invasive species causing economic and ecological and harm to human health across the United States.

To help raise awareness about these and other invasive species, events are planned in Washington, D.C. and across the country this week during National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW). More information about NISAW is available here.

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