Defense against invasive species one step closer after Honeyford bill approval

zebra1Sunnyside Sen. Jim Honeyford’s work to keep state waterways from being infested by non-native mussels received another boost Tuesday. In a marathon meeting of the Senate Ways and Means Committee before the legislative cutoff deadline Tuesday, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 6040 and sent it to be considered by the full Senate.

The bill would help the state Department of Fish and Wildlife effectively address the marauding mussels and other invasive species through an integrated management approach.

“I’ve personally seen these things cover license plates, shoes, boat hulls and motors, and even other animals from top to bottom, front to back,” 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. “If they get into our waterways, there’s no telling how much damage they’ll do or how much it will cost taxpayers to try and eradicate them.”

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 They originally made their way to the United States inside the bilge tanks of Russian freighters, and have been steadily moving west across the U.S. since about 1986 (click here to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).

SB 6040 would help provide community block grants that can be used for educational campaigns to help keep the public informed about the issue, as well as reinforce the inspection checkpoints the state has in place to keep the mussels and other invasive species out. 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.

If approved by the full Senate, SB 6040 would then be considered by the House of Representatives.