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Our View: Mussel sticker program effective and will be missed

August 10, 2018

A home grown, useful program to help combat the spread of invasive mussels from the Colorado River is ending. The “Sticker a Mussel” effort educated tens of thousands of boaters and helped assure boats leaving the river were cleaned.

The program will be missed as an alternative to very expensive and probably heavy-handed enforcement by government agencies.

Lake Havasu Marine Association President Jim Salscheider started the program in 2013, inspired to help fight the very real effects of quagga mussels while maintaining good relations with boaters who visit the Lake Havasu area and help the local economy.

In the intervening five years, federal and state governments have intensified the mussel war. Boating has been one of the casualties because of the time, energy and complications of assuring a boat is totally free of even microscopic mussels before moving to a new body of water.

Salscheider was quoted in Today’s News-Herald speculating that the demise of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant used to fund the sticker program was ending because the service favored more intensive inspections and mandatory decontaminations.

He’s probably right and that’s not a good thing for anyone who cares about boating. The image of government employees ordering this inspection and that cleaning and backed up by the law isn’t inviting.

Customer service isn’t the priority when the goal is to keep mussels from moving from lake to lake. One way to be successful is to eliminate the boats by repelling the boaters.

It’s what the sticker program sought to avoid.

Truth is, though, the Fish and Wildlife Service can plan for extra enforcement and help to coordinate the efforts of states and other agencies but it cannot assure the money will be there to accomplish the goal. The agency’s budget has been cut back severely, though additional funds have been set aside this year for ecological and habitat preservation. Is there any reason to think the extra money will pour in? Is there any reason to think government agencies fighting budget cuts will do a better long-term job than a local, passionate effort to educate boaters?

The mussel sticker will be missed by boaters and by taxpayers forced to foot the bill for extra enforcement.

— Today’s News-Herald

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