Challenge Offers $100,000 For New Ideas On Eradicating Invasive Mussels

Feb 22, 2018

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is offering a $100,000 award for new approaches to eradicate invasive quagga and zebra mussels from open water.

The Bureau opened a prize challenge competition last December to generate new ideas to wipe the mollusks out of open water, something that’s never been done before.

Sherri Purcerelli is a biologist with the Bureau.

"Scientists are kind of stumped right now, but it’s amazing what kind of solutions you get from people that are not necessarily in the field. They have a whole other area of expertise and perspective on the problem," she says.

The contest is part of an all-hands-on-deck approach to keep zebra and quagga mussels out of the Columbia River Basin, the last major watershed in the country still free of them. The Bureau estimates a full-blown infestation in the region could cost $500 million annually in lost economic production and increase electric rates.

The mussels were discovered for the first time in Montana, one of the Columbia’s headwater states, in the fall of 2016. They have not yet been detected west of the Continental Divide in Montana.

The Bureau will consider treatments that are cost-effective, scalable to large water bodies and environmentally sound for the prize challenge, and will follow up by testing winning ideas in a laboratory setting.

The challenge closes February 28.