No one likes to sit out in the hot sun waiting to pass through California’s Border Protection Stations (BPS). But don’t take it personally. In addition to searching for invasive quagga and zebra mussels, the BPS stop cars and trucks looking for all sorts of plant material. Here’s some advice on how to breeze through. Whether you’re re-entering California through Yermo (I-15), Needles (I-40), Vidal Junction (SR 62), Blythe (I-10), or Winterhaven (I-8), chances are good that if you’re pulling a boat you’ll be stopped, at least temporarily.
Although the primary focus is on plant materials (i.e., fruits, vegetables, nursery stock, hay, firewood, etc.), inspectors are checking for exotic invasive species that may be hitchhiking.
To minimize delays at the border, inspectors are trained to conduct their inspections according to the risk that a vehicle may be carrying hitchhiking pests in it – the higher the risk, the more thorough the inspection.
Protecting California against aquatic invasive species is an important part of the job. Mussels easily hitchhike on boats and are spread by unsuspecting boat owners. They are extremely invasive and disruptive to aquatic ecosystems, and post a great economic threat to water delivery systems for cities and agriculture.
Jim Salscheider, president of the Lake Havasu Marine Association (LHMA), says, “To breeze through, be sure to clean the boat, pull the plugs to drain the bilge, livewells, ballast and engine cooling water, then dry off the entire craft.
He offers these additional tips:
- “Pay particular attention to weeds and other vegetation hanging on trailer bunks and fenders, especially during low water levels.
- “Clean anchors and anchor lines – both chain and rope. Vinegar and water is great for this. Be sure to have them in plain sight to speed up border inspections.
- “Expose wet PFDs to the open air and allow them to dry completely prior to storage,” Salscheider advises.
- “Display a ‘Don’t Move a Mussel’ sticker to show inspectors you’re aware of the effort to combat invasive species – the Lake Havasu Marine Association has already stickered 16,400 boats and trailers.
Jim regularly visits border stations to maintain good relations with inspectors. He supervises a team of volunteers working local launch ramps on weekends to distribute invasive species information, educate boaters, and place stickers on trailers. The LHMarineAssn.com website also sells a CatWrench, a T-handle tool that makes removing plugs easier. Many inspectors already have them, courtesy of the LHMA.
Ask him and Jim will show you a vial containing a quagga mussel, something he carries around to educate people on what they look like. It’s a constant reminder of the importance of kicking those nasty hitchhikers off your watercraft.
Want to learn more? Visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website.