AIS Prevention, Education, and Surprises: Watercraft Inspection Season Begins
This post was written by Garfield County Conservation District Administrator and MWCC Board Member Dusty Olson.
The Garfield County Conservation District is back in the full swing of summer (already?!?!), boat season, and watercraft inspecting! We are operating the Wibaux and Flowing Wells watercraft inspection stations again this year, keeping Montana’s waterways safe from Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), while weathering a few surprises along the way.
Both stations have been up and running for just over a month now. We are excited about the brand new, fully staffed crew along Montana’s eastern border at Wibaux and are eagerly training and working with FWP to ensure our best inspections.
Along with the inspections, a large part of our duties include education. With every boater and floater, we share the CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY message, along with the importance of stopping in for a watercraft inspection at the following times:
- Any time they encounter an open inspection station
- When coming into Montana from out of state
- When traveling west over the Continental Divide
- When launching anywhere in the Flathead basin, if they last launched on waters outside the Flathead Basin
We’re also sharing information about the Vessel AIS Prevention Pass, which nonresidents launching watercraft in Montana must purchase. The fee is $30 for motorboats and $10 for nonmotorized watercraft. The Vessel AIS Prevention Pass expires Dec. 31 and is not transferrable between vessels. To purchase the Vessel AIS Prevention Pass or for any additional information, we direct people to the cleandraindryMT.com website.
Working with the public along a roadside doesn’t come without its challenges, victories, and funny stories! Opening these crucial stations in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic was our first challenge this year, but we came out victorious with full, passionate, and hard-working crews at both stations.
The Wibaux station seems to have a tick infestation, so employees count every day without a tick as a small victory. The Wednesday before Memorial Day Weekend, there was a huge storm in the Flowing Wells area. Strong winds tipped over windmills, ripped apart sheds, and downed more than 100 power poles in the area. The watercraft station fared well over all but did have to survive without power for a few days!
The inspectors persevered, and we were able to stay open during normal operating hours. Even with the weather, inspection numbers were up for the holiday weekend, and Flowing Wells got a surprise visitor in one of the boats, pictured here!