Get your inspection sticker

information released, file photo

New this year, the county-operated, voluntary boat inspection program at Lake Chelan offers local boaters a fast-track option through the inspection process that seeks to detect aquatic invasive species (AIS).

The inspection program, which started its second season in May, aims to keep AIS such as milfoil and quagga and zebra mussels, non-native mussels that can quickly destroy an ecosystem, from being transported via boats into the pristine waters of Lake Chelan. After completing an inspection, boat owners are offered one of three types of stickers:

  • Chelan Resident: The light blue sticker designates those boats that only put-in on Lake Chelan.
  • Chelan/Douglas: This dark blue sticker is for boaters who frequent only bodies of water in Chelan and Douglas counties.
  • Visitor: These aqua blue stickers are for out-of-the-area boaters visiting Lake Chelan.

The intent of the sticker program is two-fold, said Stephen Lesky, natural resource specialist with Chelan County Natural Resources.

“The stickers serve as way to help local boats and residents have reduced inspection times and show they are participating and support the new inspection program,” Lesky said. “With the Visitor stickers, these stickers also show tourist support for the program and help spread the word that Chelan is conducting inspections on arriving boats.”

Natural Resources started the voluntary boat inspection program after concerns arose following an AIS assessment in 2020 that concluded Lake Chelan is at a high risk for invasive mussels. Should such invasive species as quagga and zebra mussels become established in the lake, it would likely cost millions of dollars to mitigate and cause irreversible damage to the local ecosystem.

“The first detection of quagga mussels in the Columbia River Basin occurred last fall in the Snake River in Idaho,” Lesky said. “The creation of our voluntary boat inspection program couldn’t have come at a better time. We know early detection and monitoring efforts are key to keeping these mussels out of our water bodies.”

The boat inspections occur 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, from mid-May through September. The inspection team rotates weekends between five boat launches on Lake Chelan: Old Mill Bay, Lakeshore Marina, PUD River Walk, Lake Chelan State Park and 25 Mile State Park. The crew moves to higher trafficked launches during busy holiday weekends.

Last year, employees observed 3,753 watercrafts putting into the lake from the five locations. The 2023 pilot season had a voluntary participation rate of 37.6 percent. This year, after one season of promoting the program, inspection crews are reporting a 73 percent voluntary participation rate, Lesky reported.

“I would wager the bulk of those not inspected this season are boats launching or exiting while the crew is busy inspecting another boat,” he said. “Support for the program has been overwhelmingly positive from both locals and out-of-town visitors.”

Using a mobile decontamination trailer, or a waterless cleaning system installed at Lakeshore Marina, the inspections are also an opportunity to re-enforce “Clean, Drain, Dry” principles of preventing the spread of AIS:

  • Clean: Clean the boat, trailer and any personal gear before leaving the ramp or parking lot.
  • Drain: Drain any standing water by emptying the bilge, live wells, ballast tanks and engines.
  • Dry: Completely air- and sun-dry the boat to eliminate unwanted guests such as AIS.

The stickers are being handed out at the boat launches after the completion of a full survey and inspection. For boaters who only frequent Lake Chelan, a sticker will cut the survey questions down to “Have you been anywhere besides Lake Chelan this season?” and “How long has the boat been out of the water?”

For the Chelan/Douglas sticker holders, the survey will be abbreviated to “What waters have you been on recently?” and “How long has the boat been out of the water?” A brief inspection will follow to ensure no aquatic vegetation is attached to the trailer or boat. Visitor-stickered boats will receive a full survey but the inspection should be much shorter, as inspectors know they are aware of AIS.

Lesky is hopeful that efforts to detect AIS on Lake Chelan have far-reaching impacts across the state.

“As word spreads, we hope we see an even wider geographic area participating in ‘Clean, Drain, Dry’ practices before arriving at Lake Chelan, preventing aquatic invasive species from getting into the lake,” he said.