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Prevent invasive mussels from infesting Okanagan Lake
Halfway measures will get halfway results, warns D.D. Davis, boat inspection trainer in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada—and once invasive quagga mussels are in your lake, they’re there forever.
So, she advocates taking severe measures upfront to prevent an infestation, in order to avoid billions of dollars in damage to everything aquatic, from the valley’s ecology to waterworks, bridges, boats and beaches.
Davis was one of the speakers at an Aquatic Invasive Species Workshop held in Kelowna Tuesday by the Invasive Species Council of B.C.
In her neck of the woods, and in many other western U.S. states, there are mandatory inspections of boats before they can leave or enter a different waterway, in an effort to prevent the spread of both zebra and quagga mussels, invasive species that have already forever altered the Great Lakes.
Davis told those attending the workshop a new fish hatchery on Lake Mead had to be shut down because it couldn’t continue to operate under the infestation of quagga mussels.
As well, the mussels have gotten into the penstocks and they clog pipes, screens, gates and other equipment at the Hoover, Davis and Parker Dams, she reported, costing millions a year.
A ‘Don’t Move a Mussel’ campaign is underway there, while other states run similar campaigns to alert boaters and all other water users of the danger of transferring anything from a wakeboard or fishing rod to a boat or scuba gear from one body of water to another without a thorough cleaning and appropriate treatment.
Because the Lake Mead area is a half day drive for 30 million people, it’s a busy recreation area, and a popular place for those who enjoy water sports, Davis noted.
Compliance with regulations regarding movement of boats is expensive so boaters are not likely to voluntarily comply, she warned, and commercial marinas don’t want to annoy customers, so they can’t be relied upon to ensure compliance, she added.
De-contamination equipment can cost a quarter million dollars, and it will sit idle without enforcement, she said.
All weekend boaters are asked to Clean, Drain and Dry every surface of their boats and equipment, including bilges in order to stop aquatic hitchhikers.
The veligers, or microscopic larval stage can last for 27 days in standing water, so protocols to get rid of them are essential before leaving a contaminated water so they are not moved to infest new waters.
She advised B.C. to be proactive; to have a strategy ready, to focus on early detection and to learn from other jurisdictions where they already have the invasive mussels and have been trying to control them.
Consistency in messaging and ways of dealing with the problem would help water users to comply with recommendations regarding control and preventing their spread, she said.
Boat inspections where boaters are asked where their boat was last and how long it’s been out of the water are needed, she said.
She was impressed with the beginning this province has made to pass stringent legislation to prevent the movement of such invasive aliens, and to launch an information campaign to alert people to the dangers of their spread.
The good news is, Davis says she’s confident the valley can prevent contamination with the mussel with adequate effort.
This provincial government passed new legislation last December amending the Controlled Alien Species Regulation to prevent shipping or transport of a single mussel—alive or dead.
Offenders face a penalty of $100,000 or a year in prison, or both.
The Conservation Officer Service plans to set up checkpoints in areas such as Osoyoos and Golden to check boats this summer and try to prevent contaminated boats from entering B.C., said Gail Wallin, organizer of the conference and executive-director of the ISCBC.
They are working with marinas across the province to inform boaters about the mussels and will mount a multi-pronged campaign to spread the Clean, Drain and Dry message, but she says they’re now working on getting the attention of people like wakeboarders who can transport the veligers in the ballast of their boards; and snowbirds who took their boats to southern spots like Lake Mead during the winter months and are now bringing them home to put into Okanagan Lake.
Federal legislation is needed so that inspections could take place at the border, to ensure only decontaminated boats are permitted into Western Canada, but the difficulty is, they’re already in Eastern Canada, so regulations would have to be drafted that only applied to the West.