Published: April 13, 2016
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are a serious threat to Washington State's economy, native species and landscape. In the United States, approximately $138 billion dollars is spent annually on non-native invasive species, of which $7.3 billion is spent on invasive aquatic weeds, mussels, clams, and fish. Quagga and zebra mussels are the most expensive and devastating AIS to invade the United States, costing an estimated $5 billion annually in prevention and control efforts. The Northwest is the last region in the United States that remains mussel-free. The projected cost of controlling a Zebra/Quagga mussel infestation in the Pacific Northwest if they were to become established here, for example, is $500 million annually. The Pacific Northwest Economic Region has produced a number of reports on the current and potential future economic harm from invasive species in the northwest, for example: Economic Impacts of Invasive Species in the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PENWER, January 2012) and Advancing A Regional Defense Against Dreissenids in the Pacific Northwest (PENWER, August 2015).
While we know that prevention is prudent and much cheaper than control, Washington's AIS program prevention, enforcement, and ballast water efforts remain significantly underfunded; with only $760,000 in stable program funding available in fiscal year 2014, the lowest it has been since 2007. Compared to the twelve other states with AIS programs, Washington's current program ranks near the bottom, only Alaska's program is smaller. Lack of a healthy state prevention program in Washington has caused at least one local jurisdiction to initiate their own AIS program and fees - raising the potential for a patchwork of programs and boating fees within the State. These patchwork approaches can quickly proliferate, California has approximately 80 separate local AIS management fees. Washington currently has only one local AIS management program with a fee: the Lake Whatcom Management Program (administered by the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District) charges up to $50/year to use Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish. A comparison of the state AIS program funding levels is in Attachment 1.
The 2015 Legislature directed that part of the aquatic lands enhancement (ALEA) account be used to develop recommendations for future funding for the State AIS program. Recommendations must be provided to the Governor and Legislature by June 1, 2016. To fulfill this direction, WDFW, in partnership with the Washington Invasive Species Council (WISC) convened the AIS Funding Advisory Committee ("Committee") to consider potential funding mechanisms and make recommendations.
The Washington Invasive Species Council and WDFW identified potential Committee members by reaching out to individuals in the aquatic invasive species community including commercial and recreational boaters, ports, environmental interests, and other stakeholders, as well as local and tribal governments. Potential members were invited by the Invasive Species Council and WDFW. The AIS Cost Curve Aquatic Invasive Species Funding Advisory Committee Report & Recommendations committee met five times between September 2015 and February 2016. The agreed upon Committee charter is in Attachment 2.
The Committee agreed that only recommendations on which they reached consensus would be forwarded to the Legislature. Consensus was defined as a recommendation that all participants can "live with," even though it might not be their first�"or even preferred�"choice. In the event consensus was not reached on key issues, the Committee agreed that the range of perspectives expressed by participants would be described in their report.
The Committee used program funding need estimates prepared by WDFW. WDFW estimates a total funding need of approximately $5.2 million/year to fund the full range of activities under the AIS program; prevention ($1.85M), enforcement ($1.25M), ballast water management ($1.1M), and a new local management grant ($1M). The Committee was not asked to evaluate the content of WDFW's AIS program; it therefore did not engage in a detailed discussion of, nor reach any conclusions on, program scope and content, or the size of the program funding need and, absent discussion on program scope, takes no position on the state estimate because, in accordance with their Charter, they did not review it. The Committee felt strongly that in implementing AIS prevention, enforcement, ballast water, and local management grant activities every effort should be made to ensure efficiency and leverage state resources for greatest benefit. Additional information on WDFW's estimates of program funding need are in Attachment 3.