State boat inspectors trying to keep zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species out of Oregon have gone to work earlier this year. The station along Interstate 5 at Ashland has begun checking boat hulls and bilges for non-native species hitchhiking into the state.

The state had been inspecting boats beginning in May, at the start of the summer boating season.

Inspectors are looking for species that have caused extensive damage in other states.

Rick Boatner, who oversees the inspection program, says the early start is to determine whether some vessels have been missed, particularly boats that are hauled commercially.

Last year, the state reported finding 18 boats with zebra or quagga mussels, as well as 33 other boats with invasive species.

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