More resources needed to prevent spread of mussels into Okanagan

Boats carrying invasive mussels are being found and that has local officials calling for additional resources.

Boats carrying invasive mussels are being found and that has local officials calling for additional resources.

Of the 6,100 boats inspected so far this year in B.C., 240 came from high risk jurisdictions and eight were infested with adult quagga or zebra mussels.

“What they are finding is a little scary. We’re having close calls,” said chairperson Doug Findlater during Okanagan Basin Water Board’s meeting Tuesday in Coldstream.

Findlater wants boat inspection stations at the Alberta border expanded.

“The big hole in the net is they are not operating 10 hours a day. We could see someone come through once the station is closed and drop it (boat) into the water,” he said.

“An expanded program with hours makes sense. It just takes one boat and they are into a lake.”

A crew of 32 trained mussel inspectors work seven days a week, 10 hours a day, at eight permanent inspection stations along B.C. borders to prevent the spread of invasive mussels.

Government representatives say the U.S. border stations are monitored 24 hours a day through Canada Customs while hours at the Alberta border stations are adjusted based on traffic patterns.

“If we are missing some, we’re not missing a lot,” said Sgt. Josh Lockwood, with the Conservation Officer Service.

Martina Beck, invasive species co-ordinator, told OBWB that the Ministry of Environment is trying to improve detection of mussels.

“We are collecting data on when watercraft are moving,” she said. “We will use that to maximize our program’s efficiency.”

All eight boats confirmed to have mussels originated from Ontario.

So far this year, 45 decontamination orders have been issued in B.C., with 35 quarantined to meet the 30-day required drying time.

Quagga and zebra mussels can clog pipes, cause ecological and economic damage, displace native aquatic plants and wildlife, degrade the environment and affect drinking water quality.

If the mussels were to reach B.C.’s waterways, they would not only be environmentally destructive but also cause millions of dollars in damage as they cluster together, clogging things such as intake pipes.