Members of the Okanagan Basin Water Board are reiterating a call to Ottawa for help with invasive mussels.
This week, eight months after a meeting in Ottawa to discuss the issue and with another boating season around the corner, the board sent a follow-up letter on the “urgent need for federal action.”
“We are disheartened that the federal government hasn’t made this a priority in our area. We have had no follow up communication, or commitment, on how they would contain the mussels in regions already infested and prevent them from spreading to Western Canada,” said OBWB Chair Tracy Gray, in a press release.
In June, Gray was joined by a number of fellow Water Board directors for a meeting with Burnaby North-Seymour MP Terry Beech, who is also parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Nicholas Winfield – director general ecosystems management for DFO, Ashraf Amlani – DFO special assistant for the Pacific – West Coast, and Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr.
At the time, it was noted that $43.8 million was allocated to address aquatic invasive species in Canada from the 2017-18 fiscal year to 2021-22 fiscal year. The OBWB contingent made the case for some of it to go to invasive mussel action.
A 2013 study for the Water Board estimated that the economic impact of invasive zebra or quagga mussels to could be at least $42 million each year in lost revenue, added maintenance of aquatic infrastructure and irreparable ecological damage in the Okanagan. A similar study found it would cost the Pacific Northwest $500 million annually. In the Great Lakes, where the mussels gained a foothold in the 1980s, the annual cost to control zebra mussels in water intakes alone is $250 million.
“We know from that June meeting that there is federal funding for aquatic invasive species and expect that some will go to protecting our region from invasive mussels. We also want to see funding and resources to develop a comprehensive federal strategy to protect our waters. That’s our goal,” Gray said.
This week’s follow-up letter was sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Youth, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Dominic LeBlanc, and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna.
Among other things, it says: “We ask how this $43.8 million is being distributed to contain or prevent the spread of invasive mussels, what occurred in 2017, and what the plans are for 2018-2021. Is the distribution occurring by region, or by invasive species type and who is overseeing this?”
Learn more about the mussels, the risks to the Okanagan, how to ‘Have the Talk’ with returning snowbirds and visitors to our region, as well as “Clean-Drain-Dry” and other prevention tips to protect our waters, at www.DontMoveAMussel.ca.
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