Invasive mussel summit planned in Great FallsSource: Great Falls Tribune
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Karl Puckett , email@example.com
A summit on zebra and quagga mussels is planned Wednesday and Thursday in Great Falls to prepare for the day when the aquatic invaders are detected in local waters.
Experts from Montana, Kansas, Minnesota and Nevada are scheduled to speak.
“We want to learn from their success and their failures,” said Tenlee Atchison, district administrator of the Cascade County Conservation District.
The district is putting on the two-day readiness and response summit called “The Mussel Invasion” at the Holiday Inn.
The summit is open to the public. The cost is $60.
Besides hearing from experts in states that have dealt with invasive mussels, officials also plan to work on writing a prevention and action plan for Cascade County that will involve agriculture, industry, tourism and recreation and education interests.
“The purpose is so that Cascade County and northcentral Montana is ready and can respond when the mussels hit this corridor,” Atchison said.
It’s probably a matter of when invasive mussels show up in the Missouri or Sun rivers or other water bodies in the Great Falls area, not if, Atchison said.
Invasive mussel larvae were detected in Tiber Reservoir on the Marias River last October.
It was the first water body in Montana to test positive.
A water body is labeled positive when mussel larvae is detected in multiple samples.
That was followed by a suspect test at Broadwater Bay in Canyon Ferry on the Missouri River.
A water body is labeled suspect when there is one detection of an aquatic invasive species from two or more samples, but not a second detection.
In November 2016, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock declared a natural resource emergency.
A $13,000 grant from the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation is assisting the conservation district in hosting the Great Falls summit.
The city of Great Falls and Cascade County are partnering with the district in hosting the summit.
Among the speakers are: Chris Steffen, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism; Martha Williams, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Tera Guetter, administrator of the Pelican River Watershed District who serves on the Minnesota Invasive Species Advisory Council; Nicole Cartwright, aquatic invasive species program manager for the Tahoe Resource Conservation District; and Rachel Frost, coordinator of the Missouri River Conservation Districts Council.
In the absence of natural predators, invasive mussels can cause significant problems to river and lake environments and impact state and local economies.
They can choke off agricultural irrigation systems, clog drinking water and hydropower facilities, devastate Montana’s premiere fisheries, and damage boats and motors.
Boats are a primary vector for the spread of mussels.
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For more information
An aquatic invasive species summit Wednesday and Thursday at the Holiday Inn in Great Falls is open to the public. The cost is $60. Registration helps cover meals and materials. Call Tenlee Atchison, district administrator, Cascade Conservation District, 406-727-3603 ext. 125, for more information.