As boating season approaches, the Trust is again partnering with the provincial government and other organizations to help keep the Columbia Basin, and all of BC, free of invasive mussels. The provincial Invasive Mussel Defence Program will continue through 2017 and 2018 with $500,000 support from the Trust. The Trust’s total commitment to date is $1.06 million since 2015.
“Here in the Basin, we’re extremely fortunate that we have incredible, healthy waterways that everyone can enjoy, and that these waterways have not been contaminated by invasive mussels,” said Johnny Strilaeff, Columbia Basin Trust President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our goal is to help keep the Basin free of invasive mussels. This program is an excellent step in addressing this province-wide threat.”
Zebra and quagga mussels can significantly alter the food web, resulting in the collapse of native fish populations. They can clog pipes and water systems and affect municipal and industrial water supplies. They can economically impact industries like hydropower, agriculture and tourism.
The Province has announced significant enhancements to the program and is contributing an additional $3 million annually to support new tools to fight invasive mussels. This summer the program will open two new boat inspection stations, bringing the total number of stations in the province to 10. Six of these are located in the Basin. The province’s busiest station at Golden will open 24 hours. The remaining stations will extend their hours from dawn to dusk and sometimes longer. The inspection operating season will now run longer, from mid-March to mid-November. There will also be 35 additional inspection officers, bringing the total to 68.
Plus the program will use a new and unique tool: Canada’s first mussel detection dog. Kilo, a German Shepherd, is currently undergoing training to sniff out invasive mussels. Beginning July 1, he will be working at high-volume stations on a rotating basis.
In addition to the Province and the Trust, program funding is provided by BC Hydro, Columbia Power and Fortis BC. In 2016, program crews inspected 24,500 watercraft and intercepted 685 high-risk boats, including 17 carrying invasive mussels.