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Legislature rejects funding for cleaning stations to stop spread of invasive zebra mussels

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Zebra mussels are an invasive species in South Dakota waterways.

A bill designed to prevent the spread of zebra mussels died in the Legislature. The aquatic invasive species is infiltrating South Dakota waters.

The proposed legislation allocated $62,500 for additional boat-cleaning stations.

Sen. V.J. Smith, R-Brookings, was the bill’s primary sponsor. Smith said the state needs to do more.

“Those cleaning stations would be used as boats come out of water and clean them off, or they can stop to clean them off before they go into the water," Smith said. "That’s what this is. What this is, is a statement by this Legislature that this is an important problem that needs to be addressed.”

The director of Wildlife for the Game, Fish, and Parks Department said new cleaning stations aren’t necessary. Tom Kirschenmann said the department already has 18.

“Honestly ladies and gentlemen, if five decontamination units at this dollar amount would have been and could have potentially had that big of impact, we would have purchased another five out of Game, Fish and Parks’ operation budget and through license dollars or through other grants we obtain through other federal agencies.”

Kirschenmann said inspection stations are more effective because they also educate boaters about zebra mussels.

Lawmakers passed a resolution that promotes research into mitigation efforts in the state. A report is required by August.