It's been just over two years since the notorious quagga mussel first turned up in Lake Mead. The mussel, an invader from the Black Sea, first hit the Great Lakes, then hitchhiked across the country to California, Colorado, Arizona and Utah.
The fingernail-sized quagga mussels (and their close relatives, zebra mussels) are incredibly destructive -- they "rip apart native food webs, clog water intakes with tons of shells and mussel meat, foster the growth of noxious algae, and turn sugar-sand beaches into treacherous, stinking expanses of jagged shells" (see our story "Wish You Weren't Here").
Now the prolific little horrors are knocking at Idaho's door. Stopping them could cost as much as $90 million. The Idaho Statesman reports:
Idaho Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould told budget writers earlier this month the multimillion-dollar cost of keeping quagga and zebra mussels out of the state was too high in the current state of the economy.
.... Every boat that comes into the state needs to be washed before it is allowed in state waters in order to keep the mussels out, officials said. That requires up to 125 washing stations at an estimated cost of $150,000 apiece, a vendor reported.
But, as is usually the case, the cost of doing nothing will eventually dwarf the cost of prevention. Towns and businesses in the Great Lakes region have spent at least $1 billion to control the aquatic invader -- with no lasting success.