Program Levels


Level 1 (Self-Inspection)


Relatively low cost program for low risk waters or on higher risk waters where organization or physical capacity prevents a more aggressive approach.


As an example, we recommend either a voluntary or mandatory self-inspection program similar to the one developed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and in use at over 100 secondary risk waters in that state.  Mandatory programs work best if the authority to enforce provisions of the program (e.g., authority to require that all watercraft operators complete and post self-certification form) is in place. In the absence of that authority, a voluntary program should be implemented.


This type of program involves the dissemination of an inspection form, which can be made available at either an entry station, kiosk or message board with boldly printed instructions for the watercraft/equipment operator to answer all the questions and inspect all designated areas of watercraft, trailers and equipment. The form is then placed in or on the transport vehicle where it can be easily seen. See Attachment 3 for a sample of the form currently used by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. If the program is mandatory, spot checks by enforcement personnel can be used to reinforce compliance.


This type of program has limited effectiveness because it's unmanned and contaminated watercraft can still be launched unknowingly or otherwise by inexperienced or irresponsible boaters (though it does provide great benefits in terms of public outreach and education). A relatively low cost, a well signed self-inspection program essentially equates to having a full-time person (24/7/365) at each location educating boaters and raising their awareness about the consequences of a mussel invasion and the importance of cleaning, draining and drying watercraft between uses. 


Another benefit from this type of program is that it provides a way to overcome political resistance to more “heavy-handed government” approaches by giving the boating public an opportunity to self-regulate and exercise personal responsibility. If the boating public fails to act responsibly, it is much easier then to convince water users and law makers that more formal efforts are required to protect water resources and local economies.


Self-inspection programs can be implemented for under $1,000/year for individual water bodies (including staff time for verifying and/or enforcing compliance). Enforcement actions aimed at ensuring compliance are a necessary tool to inform the public that agencies are serious about compliance. 

Level 2

(Screening out high risk watercraft and equipment)

Moderate to high risk waterways where budget or other considerations prevent a more comprehensive (Level 3) program.


We recommend a program that includes a screening interview to identify high risk watercraft and/or equipment followed by a brief inspection to verify interview information. All watercraft that are not clean, drained and dry, or those reporting coming from areas where dreissenid mussels are known to exist within the last 30 days are then excluded from accessing that waterway.


This type of program can often be incorporated into an existing entry station operation that is set-up to collect access fees, confirm reservations or provide use information and regulations. Current entry station staff can be easily trained to conduct screening interviews and verifying inspections, and the number of watercraft excluded would normally be expected to be low on waters where this type of program would be implemented. Because a rigorous inspection is not required and no decontamination or quarantine facilities are used, this is a relatively low cost protection option.


A Level 2 program is designed to exclude all high risk watercraft where the cost of implementing a more comprehensive program is prohibitive. It maintains boating access for low risk watercraft (the majority), but completely excludes others for lack of comprehensive inspection, decontamination and/or quarantine capability. Exclusion can have adverse economic, political and social consequences.


Programs like this typically cost between $2,000 and $5,000 a year to operate per water body if existing screening facilities and staff are available.  However, if those assets do not exist, the cost can be considerably higher.



boat cleaning

Level 3 (Comprehensive)


High risk waters, large waterbodies and wherever possible.


We recommend this type of program for all high risk waters. A Level 3 program should include screening interviews at the point of entry; a comprehensive watercraft/equipment inspection of all high risk watercraft/equipment performed by trained inspectors; and the decontamination and/or quarantine or exclusion of suspect watercraft. Level 3 may include vessel certification.


This type of program may require construction or modification of entry facilities, purchase of a hot water powerwash and wastewater containment system, hiring and training inspectors and decontamination operators, providing a safe and secure quarantine facility, a good working relationship with law enforcement authorities, and the development of a set of policies and rules that allow all of the above actions.


We estimate that about 30 western state, federal, tribal and local agencies and organizations currently operate Level 3 watercraft intervention programs at the state, regional or local level on over 300 high risk waterbodies in the western United States. Programs like this can cost between $50,000 and $1 million dollars per waterbody per season to operate depending on the size of water involved, type of equipment and facilities used, hours of operation, and the number of access points available to boaters. 


Some programs operate border inspection stations. 


Only Level 3 programs offer any opportunity for cross-jurisdictional reciprocity of watercraft decontaminations.