Ottawa urged to join mussels fight

Frustration is building as the potential arrival of invasive mussels could occur any time.

Local governments, First Nations and agencies gathered in Vernon Wednesday to discuss the looming threat of zebra and quagga mussels if they show up in Okanagan-Shuswap lakes.

“A lot more needs to be done. There’s a lot of concern about the risk,” said Paul Demenok, Columbia-Shuswap regional District director.

The mussels are indigenous to Europe and since arriving in North America, they have spread across the continent, clogging water intake pipes and boat motors. They also deplete food sources for fish, produce toxins that contaminate drinking water and razor-sharp shells spread across beaches.

“It could be the biggest economic and environmental impact this area ever sees,” said Mel Arnold, North Okanagan-Shuswap Conservative MP, who hosted Wednesday’s meeting.

“We discussed the possible threats and what can be done by working together.

Arnold says more public education is needed to prevent the spread of the mussels, but the federal Liberal government also needs to increase funding.

“This will be one of the things I’m driving for.”

Dan Albas, Conservative MP for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, says there is a need for roles to be clarified when it comes to taking action.

“There are different layers at all levels of government,” he said.

But Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick insists Ottawa needs to ramp up its activities.

“There is a need for more funding and federal co-ordination,” he said.

That view is supported by Anna Warwick Sears, Okanagan Basin Water Board executive director.

“There needs to be matching dollars for what B.C. and Alberta do,” she said.