B.C. premier Christy Clark recently announced new funding to set up permanent invasive mussel inspections stations in communities close to provincial borders, including one in Radium Hot Springs and another in Golden.
The announcement follows a similar and successful pilot program last year. Clark said the province intends to keep zebra and quagga mussels out of its lakes and river and that $2 million will be spent putting putting up eight inspection stations along B.C.’s southern international border, as well as at major entry points along the Alberta border.
“B.C. is leading the fight against invasive species,” said Clark in a press release on the topic. “To date, no zebra or quagga mussels have ever been detected in B.C.’s waterways — and we’re going to keep it that way. Eight more inspection stations are yet another tool towards ensuring we remain mussel-free.”
The move was welcomed by local Lake Windermere Ambassadors program co-ordinator Megan Peloso.
“Ever heard the saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure’? It couldn’t be more true for zebra and quagga mussels,” said Peloso. “If we can detect these organisms before they enter B.C. lakes and rivers, we are likely to save millions of dollars in impact management after the fact. We know this to be true from the Great Lakes Region in eastern Canada and the United States. This new dedicated funding is a welcome sign that combating the threat of invasive aquatic species has been acknowledged as an important priority for protecting B.C. freshwater.”
She pointed out that where invasive mussels have been introduced, they have caused economic damage to drinking water intake pipes through massive clogging; reduction in the amount of food, particularly plankton, available for native fish, such as salmon and trout, as well as a vast variety of other organisms; upset in the natural balance of algae, potentially leading to a higher concentration of blue-green algae; and unsightly beaches.
“Despite research, nobody has succeeded in ridding water bodies of invasive zebra or quagga mussels once they have made them their home. They are highly resilient and have no known predators in North America,” said Peloso, adding the lakes that see heavy recreational boat traffic are at particular risk.
“Lake Windermere, like many lakes in the beautiful Columbia Valley and Kootenay region, is a popular recreational destination. This means we are particularly vulnerable to invasive specie, including plants, being introduced via travelling vessels,” she said. “Zebra and quagga mussels are remarkably resilient — they can withstand several days out of water if conditions are moist and humid, in lifejackets for instance, and they are merely the size of your thumbnail. Trained inspection and boat washing stations are critical to keep these habitat colonizers out of our water for good.”
Of the eight permanent station, several will be in the Kootenay region, including one in Radium Hot Springs to intercept boats coming in to the province on Highway 93, and another in Golden to catch boats coming into the province on the Trans-Canada Highway.
In total, the eight new station will have 32 conservation officers and the stations will operate 10 hours a day, seven days a week from April through October, starting this summer. There will be an additional six mobile inspection stations and the eight inspection stations will have the capability to become mobile if the need arises, travelling to locations throughout B.C. where watercraft are being detained, waiting for decontamination.
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald also welcomed the move.
“I’m really pleased with it. It’s a significant step forward protecting our lakes and rivers,” he said. “I feel really good about the direction the government is going on this and it’s great they (the permanent inspection stations) will be in place this summer.
Peloso added that Upper Columbia Valley residents should be careful not to confuse invasive mussels with native mussels, which are common in the Columbia Valley’s watershed system.
“Larger in size and usually uniformly brown, native mussels help to filter pollutants from the water and are excellent indicator of watershed health,” she said, adding that while the new inspection stations are great news, the inspection officers will need the help of both residents and visitors to be as effective as possible.
“Help protect the lake by making it a point to be aware of the issue, encourage your friends to follow the classic Clean, Drain, Dry protocol, and get to know what’s happening in the lakes and rivers you enjoy,” said Peloso.
During last year’s pilot program from May to October 2015, more than 4,300 boats were inspected, of which 70 were identified as coming from an invasive mussel-infested province or state. Out of these 70 watercraft, 34 required decontamination and 15 were confirmed to be transporting invasive mussels or their larvae. Six were issued a 30-day quarantine order due to risk of live mussels.