BELLINGHAM - Kayaks and canoes will come under the scrutiny of invasive-species inspectors this year, when the city's boat inspection program kicks off Saturday, April 26, at Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish.
Also new this year, canoeists and kayakers are required to pay $10 for season permits to use the two lakes. Completing an online aquatic invasive species awareness course will allow boaters to waive the fees for all of their human-powered craft. The course is good for a $10 discount on the $50 season pass for motor craft and state-registered sailboats.
Paddle boards, kite boards and inflatables less than 10 feet long do not require permits.
Inspections started last year to keep harmful zebra and quagga mussels, and other invasive species, out of the lakes, which are sources of drinking water for nearby residents. Lake Whatcom supplies water to about half the county's population, including the city of Bellingham.
Zebra and quagga mussels can damage water intakes, docks and boats. Infestations can close lakeside recreation areas, and affect the taste and odor of drinking water. Watercraft infested with these mussels are spotted every year in Washington, according to a city press release, but the state has no known water bodies that are infested.
Inspections have already begun, with visits to boat owners' homes and public events. Clare Fogelsong, city natural resources policy manager, estimated that "well over 100" nonmotorized boats have already been inspected. In Sudden Valley over the past weekend, 87 boats of all types were inspected at an event, Fogelsong said.
"They've been hitting it hard as far as the preseason inspections," he said.
Many residents who got their boats inspected at home were ready with the $10 discount certificates they printed after answering questions at the end of the half-hour online course, Fogelsong said.
"A lot of people are taking the quiz, which is what we had hoped," he said. "We looked at it primarily as an education tool."
BOAT INSPECTIONS BEGIN
Sites: 3 at Lake Whatcom, 2 at Lake Samish (whatcomboatinspections.com/inspection-locations).
Days: Beginning 5 a.m. Saturday, April 26, inspectors will be at Bloedel Donovan seven days a week. Staff at other sites will be limited mostly to weekends.
Fees: Motorized boats and registered sailboats - $50 for a season pass; $20 3-day pass. Human-powered craft - $10 for the season.
Discount: Half-hour online course (there's a quiz) provides $10 discount on season permits.
Course link and more info: whatcomboatinspections.com.