Honeyford bill to protect state waters signed by governor

Sunnyside Sen. Jim Honeyford’s work to keep state waterways from being infested by non-native mussels and other invasive species was validated when Senate Bill 6040 was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee during a ceremony Wednesday.

By using an integrated-management approach supported by Honeyford’s legislation, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife will be able to effectively address the marauding mussels and other invasive species should they reach Washington waters.

“These mussels reproduce quickly and begin to cover water pumping stations, generator turbines, shoes, boat hulls and motors, anything in their path,” said Honeyford, the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee, referring to the zebra and quagga mussels that can infest a body of water in just a few short weeks. “It’s critical to stop them now, before they damage our waterways, and it will cost taxpayers even more to control them.”

SB 6040 provides for community block grants that can be used for educational campaigns to help keep the public informed about the issue, as well as reinforcing inspection checkpoints the state has in place to keep the mussels and other invasive species out. However, the funding authorized by the Senate for this important program was eliminated by the House of Representatives, meaning grants will not be available until at least next year.

As a member of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER), Washington is working with other member states and provinces to keep theses invasive species out of the region. Honeyford added that Canadian officials estimate millions of dollars in savings each year they do not have the invasive zebra and quagga mussels in their waterways. PNWER is made up of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon and Northwest Territories.

The small freshwater mussels reproduce rapidly and deplete nutrients in the water, jeopardizing power and water infrastructures, damaging ecosystems and destroying recreational areas. They originally made their way to the United States inside the bilge tanks of Russian freighters, and have been steadily moving west across the U.S. since about 1986 (click here to see a dynamic map of where zebra mussels have spread from 1986 through 2010).