A pilot program to minimize aquatic invasive species on Lake Chelan is underway.

A trailer with special equipment is rotating around five high use marinas around the lake to offer voluntary inspections and cleaning of boats.

Lisa Dowling with Chelan County Natural Resources says a recent assessment shows the environmental impact of aquatic invasive species on Lake Chelan and the Columbia River would be devastating.

"Just the cost of trying to deal with the hydroelectric dams, irrigation intakes, docks and other related infrastructure was estimated at about $600 million per year," said Dowling.

The trailer to inspect and clean boats will be at Riverwalk Park in Chelan this weekend from today through Sunday.

The trailer will be rotating between Riverwalk Park and four other marinas: Lake Chelan State Park, Twenty-five Mile Creek State Park, Lakeshore Marina, Manson Bay Marina in Chelan and Manson.

The special equipment can go through a process to clean, drain and dry boats entering or leaving the lake.

The pilot program is running now through the end of October with the trailer and a trained crew on location every weekend between Friday and Sunday.

The team has so far inspected more than 100 boats in the two weeks of operation.

The trailer and crew also function as an information booth, according to Dowling. They spread information about the clean, drain, dry process and the environmental and economic dangers presented by aquatic invasive species.

Also, a new CD3 waterless cleaning system will be installed at Lakeshore Marina. The cleaning station has a shop vac and other tools and equipment needed to clean, drain and dry a boat. The station will also provide information about proper watercraft practices as well as aquatic invasive species.

Dowling said the boat cleaning station came in a grant from Wildlife Forever, a nonprofit conservation group based in Minnesota.

The invasive species themselves are specific mussels – zebra and quagga – that have attached themselves to boats before coming to Lake Chelan.

"Those are species that are not known to occur within the lake, but that are spreading apart across the west at alarming rates and causing catastrophic impacts in the water bodies that they infest," Dowling said.

The long-term goal is to establish mandatory inspection for invasive aquatic species on Lake Chelan and the Columbia River.

The county says it’s concerned with protecting the local economy, which depends on 2 million tourists who visit Lake Chelan every year.

There's also a focus on protecting the water for local residents as a source of potable water for domestic and agricultural use.

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