CSKT urges vigilance after incidents involving mussel-contaminated boatsSource: KPAX
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POLSON -Alarmed by a number of “close calls”, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal leaders are asking all boaters to be extremely vigilant this holiday weekend, with the goal of stopping invasive mussels from entering Flathead Lake.
Without everyone doing their part, they worry the pristine waters of Western Montana could become the breeding ground for an ecological disaster impacting the entire Northwest.
The tribe, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Flathead Basin Commission are extending hours of the three primary boat inspection stations at Kalispell, Ravalli County and Polson this weekend, hoping to “seal off” the Flathead from the spread of mussels already found east of the Divide.
“We’re looking at perimeter defense. So we’re trying to look at all the strategic places we can place check stations so they get inspected before they come onto the reservation,”said CSKT Information and Education Specialist Germaine White.
The process is simple and only takes a few minutes, especially if you’re a “low risk” boat that’s local and hasn’t been in the water for more than a month. Inspectors check the motor and hull by sight and touch, looking for any traces of mussels, or even the rough feel of the microscopic larvae on the hull.
Once you’re clear, you get an info sheet, and these stickers which need to be displayed for game wardens on the boat.
“There’s really no reason that a person has to drive by a check station,” White said. “Again, they’re called mandatory check stations. It’s the law. You need to get your boat inspected. The most important thing I’d like people to remember is clean, drain and dry.”
And tribal officials say the precautions should extend to more than just the use of our boats here in the Flathead Basin. We should also be careful about boats that are purchased or used from outside the region.
“Yeah, definitely. There’s a lot of people that purchased used boats down from the Southwest and Midwest,” said CSKT Aquatic Invasive Special Coordinator Erik Hanson. “And oftentimes that’s one of the main ways that we have mussel-fouled boats show up in the Flathead Basin. So it’s important if people buy their boats out of state that they have them inspected before they use them.”
The fear is people will dismiss the threat. And already there’ve been cases where infected boats have turned up. In one case, an officer chased down a boat that blew by the Ravalli check station, only to find it was from out of state, contaminated, and headed for Flathead.
“There have been some mussel-infested boats that have come into the area,” White said. “But this perimeter defense, having multiple and redundant check stations in the Flathead Basin has prevailed to this point. And we’ve been able to catch those boats before they come in and launch in the Flathead.”
Hanson says even new boats purchased from manufactures outside the Northwest should be inspected because they are usually tested in local waters before being shipped.