BOISE, Idaho — Regional energy planners for four Western states are asking Congress for help building a stronger line of defense against what some officials call an unfolding environmental disaster — an invasive mussel that is clogging Colorado River reservoirs like Lake Mead outside Las Vegas after ravaging the Great Lakes region.
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council guides power and environmental policy in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, all of which are frustrated because boats continue to leave Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona contaminated with quagga mussels.
It's seeking $2 million in federal aid to add watercraft inspection and decontamination stations to intercept boats carrying the mollusks that could wreak havoc on Columbia River hydroelectric dams, farmers' irrigation systems and lakes prized for recreation.
“A second line of defense is not as good perhaps as stopping them at Lake Mead, but it's something we absolutely need to do when we can't depend on interdiction efforts,” Phil Rockefeller, Washington's appointee on the council, said Tuesday at a meeting in Boise.
Park Service managers at Lake Mead contend they've done more than anybody to try to keep mussels from leaving, but cite privacy laws governing boaters' personal information that they say prevent them from passing along details from boaters to states.