By Jim Malewitz
State lawmakers and wildlife officials want Washington's help in battling huge colonies of zebra and quagga mussels that are wreaking havoc in U.S. waters and costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars.
The officials say an infusion of federal dollars would give them the biggest boost, but few expect tightfisted Congress to deliver. In the meantime, they want Washington to tweak a 113-year-old federal law to give them more ammunition against people who help the invaders spread.
The tiny mollusks — the zebra mussel and its close cousin the quagga—have been spotted in more than 600 bodies of water in 27 states, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The animals ravage underwater food chains by sucking up resources fish depend on. They also cling to everything in their path, clogging pipes and the machinery of power plants and water-delivery systems. That has necessitated millions in repairs and, in a few cases, shutdowns.
The mussels, natives of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, were transported to the U.S. in the ballast water of trans-Atlantic cargo ships. They first appeared in the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s, and between 2000 and 2010, they cost that region's water users some $5 billion. The invaders have since crossed the Rocky Mountains, likely hitching a ride on a vacationer's boat (they can survive for weeks out of water). More....