People putting their boats into Lake Whatcom or Lake Samish this boating season must first have them inspected as part of ongoing efforts to keep harmful shellfish and other non-native species out of the lakes.
The Whatcom Boat Inspection Program starts Saturday, April 25, when inspection stations open.
Inspections and aquatic invasive species permits are once again required for all watercraft launching at the lakes this year, including non-motorized boats such as canoes and kayaks.
Inspectors will check each boat and its compartments before allowing it onto the lakes.
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The program is a combined effort of the city, Whatcom County government, and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District.
Boaters can learn about the mandatory inspection and permit requirements for 2015 during an information session at Bloedel Donovan Gymnasium on Wednesday, April 15.
Staff from the Lake Whatcom Management Program will discuss 2014 results and answer the public’s questions.
Permit fees, which will stay the same this year, help pay for the inspection program.
Paddleboards, kite boards and inflatables shorter than 10 feet do not require permits.
Officials want to keep all invasive species, which hitch rides on boats from infested waterways, out of Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish.
Because they’re not native, such aquatic plants and critters have no natural enemies to control their growth here. That could allow them to reproduce rapidly and crowd out native species, causing millions of dollars in economic and ecological damages.
Non-native zebra and quagga mussels, which grow in masses, are of the greatest concern. The freshwater mussels, first documented in the U.S. in 1988, can damage water intakes, docks and boats. Infestations can close recreation areas, and affect the taste and odor of drinking water. Bellingham residents and some county residents drink Lake Whatcom water.
Quagga mussels have spread as far west as Southern California and northern Nevada but have not yet been found living in Washington state.
Officials, with the help of the public, want to keep it that way.
“We’re having a good response from the public,” said Clare Fogelsong, acting assistant director of the natural resources division of the city’s Public Works Department.
“People understand the different threats that the species could pose if they get into the lakes,” he said.
The Whatcom Boat Inspection Program completed its third season in 2014.
Between April 1 and September 30 last year, staff conducted 7,859 inspections at Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish.
In June, inspectors at Lake Whatcom found dead quagga mussels in a ski boat that had most recently been in Lake Havasu, an Arizona lake infested with the invasive shellfish.
They were the first quagga or zebra mussels found at Lake Whatcom since mandatory boat inspections began.