Quagga/Zebra Mussel Action Plan Western Regional Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species Recommendations Presented to the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force May 19, 2009



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Quagga/Zebra Mussel Action Plan

Western Regional Panel

on Aquatic Nuisance Species
Recommendations Presented to the
Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force


May 19, 2009

I. Introduction

In terms of ecological and economic impacts, quagga/zebra mussels are among the most devastating aquatic species to invade North American fresh waters. Due to its scarcity, water is a more precious commodity in the West. Thus quagga/zebra mussel invasions have the potential to extend devastating impacts into a geographical area already challenged with water-related problems. The Western Regional Advisory Panel (WRP) to the federal Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force (ANS Task Force or ANSTF) has made coordinating quagga/zebra mussel prevention a priority. The WRP agreed to develop this action plan for presentation to the ANSTF by May 19, 2009 and has agreed to collaborate with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA), who is also developing a strategic plan to address the prevention and control of these invasive mussels. Both groups recognize that a full-scale commitment to the 100th Meridian Initiative to prevent the spread of quagga and zebra mussels into the West requires devoted personnel and financial resources beyond current levels. The primary objective of the WRP’s Quagga/Zebra Mussel Action Plan is to underscore the highest priority actions and resources needed to address the introduction and spread of quagga/zebra mussels in western North America in order to protect native species and water delivery infrastructure.



II. Highest Priority Actions

Effective and decisive actions are needed from state and federal agencies, tribes, and water districts to prevent invasive mussels from spreading into additional waters. Despite current efforts to protect the West from quagga/zebra mussels, invasions into new watersheds rapidly continue. Further invasions are expected to produce additional economic losses, irreversible ecological impacts, and long-term costs in infested areas. However, further invasions could be minimized with regionally coordinated, principal actions occurring at the state level. Yet, state agencies are largely unable to sufficiently address the problem with existing resources. Additional funding to support an immediate regional response to the quagga/zebra mussel invasion is essential. States have jurisdiction, regulatory authority, and expertise that are critical for an effective plan combating invasive mussels in the West. Listed actions are the highest priorities chosen by the Western Regional Panel to immediately address the quagga/zebra mussel invasion problem. All are dependent on additional funding, specifically address the quagga/zebra mussel problem but will also improve prevention of all aquatic invasive species, and will benefit the entire nation.


Increase Funding for ANS Management Plans and Quagga/Zebra Mussel Plan Implementation – The Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act (NANCPA) 1204(b) originally authorized $4 million for the implementation of ANS Management Plans. Through the Fish and Wildlife Service, $1.075 million is allocated each year to support 31 State and Interstate ANS Management Plans with each plan receiving approximately $34,000 for implementation. More plans are being approved each year, which means each State implementation share is shrinking annually. These funds provide the critical basis for State AIS Coordinators, who then can leverage their time and position to gain additional resources for programs. Capacity to prevent introductions and respond to zebra/quagga mussels will be enhanced by increasing the funding provided to states/tribes/regions that have ANSTF-approved management plans. An increase in annual funding of $2.9 million would bring the total to the $4 million originally authorized in the NANPCA 1204(b) program (state grants). The mechanism is already in place to support state actions and quagga/zebra mussel actions are currently in place in many states that are not funded through ANSTF approved plans. However, states need more funding than is currently authorized by this legislation and an increase to $30 million for this program is recommended. Specific actions related to increased funding are listed below.

Provide Funding to Implement Inspection and Decontamination Stations at Infested Waters – Decontamination is a prevention tool by containing the infestation at the source. In addition to the primary goal of preventing boats from moving mussels from infested waters to uninfested waters, inspection and decontamination locations also serve a valuable educational purpose. Thus, this priority action serves to address three priorities - containment, prevention and education. Decontamination stations are often the first line of defense against spread and further invasions. There are various types of decontamination stations including permanent stations, which cost approximately $250,000, and mobile stations, which cost $15,000 to $70,000. Although such stations may seem expensive, in context of the economic impact to ecosystems and water-use infrastructure, the cost of decontamination units are nominal. More detailed discussion may be found in Section IVA: Prevention of New Infestations and Containment of Existing Infestations.

Funding For Dedicated ANS Law Enforcement at the State Level – Law enforcement is a necessary component of any ANS Program. Similar to hunting and fishing license programs, boaters must comply with decontamination laws and regulations. If each boater took responsibility for ensuring that their vessel was clean, drained and dry before transporting to other waters, overland mussel dispersal could be minimized. However, most Western states do not have law enforcement officers assigned to ANS. Meanwhile, existing law enforcement officers are unfamiliar with the ANS problem and often will not enforce ANS laws. Although introductions of mussels can result in millions of dollars of perpetual costs to the public, and although such introductions are prohibited at both state and federal levels, the laws and regulations are currently ignored by the public and law enforcement authorities in many jurisdictions. Though State ANS Management Plans address enforcement of laws pertinent to ANS prevention and control, funding for dedicated state ANS law enforcement programs is critical. More detailed discussion may be found in Section IVA: Prevention of New Infestations and Containment of Existing Infestations.
Create and Maintain a Rapid Response Fund – A dedicated fund is necessary to rapidly implement containment at waters found to be positive with zebra or quagga mussels. This fund will help states organize and begin implementing immediate actions while they work with stakeholders and other partners to determine the long-term containment strategy and how those efforts would be funded. The lack of a fund that is available year-round, regardless of a budget cycle, is a primary reason that states cannot respond to a new infestation, when there is the greatest chance of containing that infestation. More detailed discussion may be found in Section IVC: Rapid Response.
Fund Detection and Monitoring Actions – Early detection and monitoring is dependent on resources available for regular site visits by crews familiar with specific waters. In most cases these are state fish and wildlife agency employees. Early detection and monitoring may be achieved by monitoring existing structures, substrate samples, or examining plankton samples for veliger larvae in the water column. Sample collection and analysis should be performed regularly, especially at high-risk waters, and coordinated with all other western stakeholders. Nevertheless, many states do not have the necessary funding to implement and coordinate early detection and monitoring programs. More detailed discussion may be found in Section IVB: Early Detection and Monitoring.
Inspection and Decontamination

Develop Consistent and Reliable Boat Decontamination Protocols – Control methods designed to reduce the likelihood of mussel dispersal overland on boats need to be evaluated in both laboratory and field trials. These may include the evaluation of pressure sprays, desiccation, forced hot-air treatment, eco-friendly anti-fouling coatings, and the use of potassium chloride or bleach. Many of the recommended practices are based solely on laboratory studies with zebra mussels (but not quagga mussels) or lack experimental testing. Solid, field-based evidence is lacking and should be obtained to support and improve recommended practices. More detailed discussion may be found in Section IVA: Prevention of New Infestations and Containment of Existing Infestations.
Develop Consistent Equipment Inspection and Decontamination Protocol – Consistent protocols specific to equipment inspections are needed. Equipment may be fish management tools (e.g. spawning equipment), heavy construction equipment, trucks, fire-suppression equipment, or anything else that could carry invasive mussels to new areas. Protocols for decontamination of this equipment should target holding tanks, raw water circulation systems or other apparatus having contact with infested water, especially splash areas that become sprayed or plastered with mud or vegetation. More detailed discussion may be found in Section IVA: Prevention of New Infestations and Containment of Existing Infestations.

Streamline Inspection Protocols Across States – If watercraft inspections performed in one area were accepted or effectively understood by authorities in other areas, this might serve to streamline these inspections. Many boaters have experienced multiple inspections when they transport a boat from one water body to another. Although this frustrates boaters, and while it is important to avoid discouraging recreational boat use, some secondary inspections have turned up invasive mussels missed by previous inspections or decontaminations. Thus, inspection and decontamination protocols are not perfect. This is a concern that requires additional effort and coordination among jurisdictions. Streamlining protocols should include a standardized training program and a quality control program to ensure protocols are being followed in the field. This will increase the possibility of acceptance of the protocols across jurisdictions, and enable private industries such as marine dealers to participate at off-water locations. There is also currently no method for fast and efficient communication between inspection locations in various states. A tool to enable sites to communicate and utilizing best management practices would help increase reliability in inspections. More detailed discussion may be found in Section IVA: Prevention of New Infestations and Containment of Existing Infestations.
Development and Research

Develop Best Management Practices for Early Detection and Monitoring – With a nearly unanimous vote at the 100th Meridian Initiative’s “Early Detection of Dreissenid Mussels” workshop in January of 2009, dual confirmation by cross-polarized light microscopy and PCR assay of a sample is the recommended standard for official confirmation of the presence of zebra or quagga mussels. Nevertheless, these technologies require standardization and improvement in order to reach their full potential. The 100th Meridian Initiative has begun development of standard sampling protocols for microscopic analysis and PCR assays for mussel larvae, and these techniques are still being developed and improved. Only a handful of agencies are developing PCR assays for early detection of dreissenid larvae in plankton samples. This technology is on the cusp of providing high-throughput, rapid turn-around analysis of potentially infested waters. Nevertheless, substrate samplers remain the primary method of early detection in many areas and yet, standard practices for settlement samplers have not been developed. More detailed discussion may be found in Section IVB: Early Detection and Monitoring.


Research and Identify Best Management Practices for Water Managers to Prevent and Minimize Veliger Movement and Settlement Within Water Delivery Systems and Other Water Infrastructure – A toolbox of prevention techniques, specifically for water providers, is needed to engage implementation of tools to prevent further introductions of mussels and their larvae into currently uninfested systems. Tools already exist that were developed in response to the zebra/quagga mussel invasion in the East. Such tools include methods for decontamination using oxidizing and non-oxidizing chemicals and filtration of potentially contaminated waters. There is also a clear need for continuing research in this arena. Science must be supported to continue developing new tools for the toolbox. More work is also needed to prevent or minimize the downstream movement of veligers in open water systems that have an upstream infested source. More detailed discussion may be found in Section IVD: Control of Established Populations.
Standardized Model for Risk Assessment of Water Bodies – Water body susceptibility and risk assessment is necessary to prioritize the use of limited funds to target sampling, inspection and decontamination stations. Several models exist, but a consistent and effective method for assessing risk of water bodies needs further improvement. Risk assessment models should include both the risk of mussels being introduced, as well as the risk that, if introduced, the mussels could sustain a reproducing and invasive population. These models would include the species’ physiological tolerances, patterns of movement for boats, equipment, and other vectors, downstream dispersal from headwaters, and a more complete understanding of water chemistry parameters for water bodies throughout the West. More detailed discussion may be found in Section IVA: Prevention of New Infestations and Containment of Existing Infestations and Section IVB: Early Detection and Monitoring.


Finalize Notification Database – A database of principal contacts for communication about newly infested water bodies in Western states is under development. This database will be useful for quickly contacting designated leads in jurisdictional areas when key information is discovered and needs to be transmitted quickly. This database is not open to the public; it is shared only among the key Western contacts. More detailed discussion may be found in Section IVC: Rapid Response.


Adopt Consistent Outreach Message – It is nearly unanimously agreed that a consistent message is necessary for informing and educating the public. However, there has been much disagreement regarding what that message should be. Many independent efforts are already underway that would benefit from coordination by an organized outreach team that incorporates the more general Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers Campaign! This campaign was developed as a national program that utilized marketing and outreach professionals. Specific messaging is also encouraged to incorporate such professionals and should be coordinated with other similar efforts. A consistent message should be adopted and incorporated into all state and federal AIS programs and should be carried strongly through the marine/boating dealers and marinas. Without coordination we risk confusing the public. More detailed discussion may be found in Section IVE: Outreach and Education.
III. Coordination

Many Western partners have suggested that a dedicated, high-level (i.e. Department of Interior) coordinator is needed to manage federal quagga/zebra mussel detection, containment, population control, and mitigation efforts, in collaboration with states and other partners. Such a coordinator would serve as a point of contact for the Department, Congressional interest, other federal agencies, affected industries, and other stakeholders, and would provide direction for federally-funded research, and promote information-sharing among all cooperators. Currently the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) divides zebra/quagga coordination efforts among regional Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) coordinators who work under the direction of their respective region and who have many other responsibilities. Other water-managing Federal agencies (e.g. U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management) do not have AIS coordinators or AIS budgets, resulting in inconsistency across jurisdictional areas. State AIS coordinators operate within their own borders and may not have jurisdiction over Federal waters or water access points within their states. An increased level of responsibility for the quagga/zebra mussel issue needs to be managed by a person whose accountability includes the entire West, and who can converse about this issue across Federal agencies, Congressional and State levels. If the West is to be protected, it is essential that all of these jurisdictions work together in a coordinated manner. Significant efforts of any single jurisdiction could be completely negated by inaction of another. A dedicated coordinator responsible for implementing this action plan would help ensure that Western states and other jurisdictions have the necessary resources to do their part in protecting themselves and the rest of the nation. This subject requires detailed discussion and a decision at the level of the ANS Task Force


IV. Specific Methods and Objectives

This section includes fundamental details and background on high priority actions listed in Section III. It also includes more subordinate needs that are not on the highest priority list but are also important. This section is divided into key categories: Prevention, Early Detection and Monitoring, Rapid Response, Control of Established Populations, and Outreach and Education. Specific development and research needs are detailed within each category.


A. Prevention of New Infestations and Containment of Existing Infestations

Current Approach

Prevention remains the most cost-effective and ecologically protective approach to minimize damage from quagga and zebra mussels. In addition to minimizing the export of mussels from contaminated waters in the West, the predominantly uninfested watersheds in the West can be protected by intercepting the variety of pathways that can introduce mussels accidentally and intentionally. Transport pathways for introduction include boat transport, wading, floating, movement of water tanks, construction equipment, fish stocking, trans-basin water diversions, water-based aircraft, live bait use, and many others. Although education and outreach continue to serve as key prevention and containment methods in the West (see Section E: Outreach and Education), additional strategies include voluntary and mandatory watercraft inspection and decontamination at points-of-entry, watercraft exclusion, law enforcement programs to identify and intercept contaminated watercraft in transit, “green” certification programs for boat hauling services, permits (with associated inspection/decontamination requirements) for movement of large water-based materials (e.g., waterfront construction equipment) from infested waters to uninfested waters, use of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans and similar risk management/assessment methods to reduce inadvertent movement of mussels via natural resource projects, and reward programs and stiff penalties for intentional introductions of these invasive mussels. Each of these strategies is in place to some degree in the West, with substantial variability among states. States and other jurisdictions differ significantly in their capacity to require and enforce inspection and decontamination of watercraft and other potential introduction sources.

While it is most cost-effective and ecologically protective to devote most effort to keeping quagga and zebra mussels out of water bodies, a closely related element is the need to contain infestations to where they already occur. Many states currently do not have the capacity or resources to develop monitoring or inspection and decontamination programs, hence it will be difficult to contain existing populations to the Colorado River system and the few isolated waters that have recently been confirmed to harbor quagga or zebra mussels. Several western states that are at high risk of introduction from a contaminated watercraft do not have an aquatic invasive species (AIS) coordinator or program.

States and water bodies managed by any entity should have an inspection/interdiction policy and strategy implemented before allowing watercraft launches. Such entities also need a decontamination strategy for watercraft leaving an infested water body. Utah, for example, has a self-certification option backed up with law enforcement officers and state regulations that require compliance in order to avoid penalties. Watercraft and trailers could also be professionally cleaned and flushed, though there are limited options for this right now. This approach can also be costly, particularly if a boater wants to use multiple water bodies within the same day or within a short time.



In order to provide consistency for watercraft inspections, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bonneville Power Administration supported the development and ongoing delivery of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commissions’ Watercraft Inspection Training Program. However, all western states do not have consistent standards for inspection and decontamination. This can lead to confusion and frustration for recreational users. The development of standardized protocols and cross-state acceptance of another state’s decontamination would be preferred by the public, though there are liability concerns at the state level to accept another states’ decontamination. Development of best management practices (BMPs) may be more feasible to address this challenge. The Western States Boating Administrators Association (WSBAA) has a workgroup that is exploring this issue and is working to develop BMPs. Interdiction and inspection staff can find the current status of confirmed locations of quagga and zebra mussels can be found at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database: http://nas.er.usgs.gov/taxgroup/mollusks/zebramussel/

States also need support to develop comprehensive, and ideally consistent, regulations that would prevent aquatic invasive species introductions through the various pathways of introduction. Regulations need to address authority and enforcement for boat or other equipment decontamination and quarantine (including water that may harbor microscopic veliger larvae), acceptability and effectiveness of cleaning technologies, rapid decisions and ability to close suspect waters to boating, and acceptable decontamination certification across the states.


Challenges with Current Approach

Although importation and interstate transport of zebra mussels is prohibited by the federal Lacey Act (18 USC 42), the federal government’s role has been to encourage and foster coordinated state efforts to prevent further invasions by providing technical assistance, tools and forums for exchange of information among all stakeholders, especially through the 100th Meridian Initiative (http://100thMeridian.org). Quagga mussels are not currently listed as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act. Though a number of federal agencies have authority to intercept mussel pathways in certain situations, states are better suited to lead regulatory prevention programs that are focused on watercraft and other equipment. Some states have broad authority to stop and inspect all vulnerable watercraft, matched with substantial enforcement personnel resources, while others still lack clear authority to detain watercraft.

Regulatory programs to prevent introductions via other pathways, like water-based construction equipment, are much less developed. In some cases, local water management districts are restricting public access to particularly sensitive water bodies rather than risk contamination. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service strongly promotes use of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) planning to reduce inadvertent introduction of aquatic invasive species into Western watersheds via fish stocking programs and other natural resource activities, including a dedicated website where a HACCP plan can be developed and frequent training workshops.


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