Prevention, prevention, prevention

Prevention, prevention, prevention

News Type: State, Regional, Federal Source: Char-Koosta News
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POLSON — The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have been at the point of the effort to prevent the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels in the Flathead River Basin and by extension the Columbia River Basin. The State of Montana was perceived by some as dragging its feet when it came to prevention or failing to understand the enormity of an aquatic invasive species (AIS) effect on the aquatic resource as well as the blow to the economy should an invasion happen. But that seems to have changed in the last 18 months or so.

CSKT AIS Program Coordinator Eric Hanson said the State of Montana seems to have finally got fully on board about the potential damage the zebra and quagga mussels can do to an aquatic system and the economy.

In the last legislative session, $7 million per year was allocated to address mussels making inroads in Montana water bodies — $1.5 million came from the Army Corps of Engineers due to its concern related to the entire Columbia River Basin. However, Hanson said the issue of enforcement got the short shrift with a $400,000 per year allocation.

“They (Montana) are doing a lot better this year, definitely a lot better,” Hanson said. “They have improved and increased the watercraft inspection in the state and have focused on containment in Tiber Reservoir. State regulations also require that boats in the Flathead Basin have to be inspected before launching in Montana waterways.”

Mussels have been detected east of the Continental Divide in Tiber Reservoir southwest of Chester. To combat the potential spread of mussels from Tiber the State of Montana has severely decreased the number of entry points in the reservoir. There are now only two boat-launches as well as an on-site inspection station.

“It was the Tribes who recommended that the numerous entry points, boat launches at Tiber Reservoir be closed down to a manageable few,” Hanson said. “The State listened and heard and followed the CSKT’s recommendation.”

Mussels have been detected in nearly every aquatic basin in America except the Flathead/Columbia rivers basin.

A mussel invasion in the Flathead Basin could have a devastating effect on the local economy. If such an invasion happened in Flathead Lake property values could decrease by 13- to 19-percent. That works out to be an estimated $1.5 billion drop in property values — now estimated to be from $6- to $8-billion — within three years. Tourism, hydropower facilities, and various water supply systems would also suffer to the tune of $95 million per annum.

Prevention, prevention, prevention is the mantra of the CSKT because once the invasive species makes inroads, it is nearly impossible to eradicate them. An adult female zebra mussel can release up to a million eggs a year. Eggs and larvae will naturally flow downstream of established populations. Larvae can also be transported in water carried by recreational boats, trailers, and other aquatic equipment. Adults can also be spread by recreational boats, trailers, and aquatic equipment. Adults can survive out of water for weeks if temperatures remain cool and humidity remains high. Quagga mussels were probably transported overland at least 1000 miles from their source population (most likely the Great Lakes). Resident boats (those boats that are moored or held in a slip) are much more likely to harbor zebra and quagga mussels than day boats (boats that are removed from the water after each use).

Hanson said the Flathead and Blackfeet nations are manning two vital Flathead Basin entry points, one in Ravalli and the other in Browning. The inspection stations opened in mid-March, a bit early in the boating season. They are inspecting all watercraft including canoes, inflatables, stand-up paddle-boards and the such. Hanson said the reason for an early opening is due to the migration of Snowbirds back to Montana from the southwest including California. “So far, since we’ve been open in Ravalli at least one Snowbird boat a day has been inspected.”

And for those who pass by an inspection station after it has closed for the day or those who drive by the stations, there are remedies for them.

“If someone enters the area and the inspection stations are closed after hours a person can still get their watercraft inspected at our Polson office,” Hanson said, adding that the Tribes are requiring that all watercraft used in the Spring Mack Days lake trout fishing contest be inspected.

Further, if someone drives by an inspection station instead of stopping the station inspectors can call law enforcement with one number that will link them to CSKT police and game wardens, Lake County Sheriffs Office, local municipal police and Montana Highway Patrol for assistance in getting the drive-by to an inspection station to get inspected.

The office is at 406 6th Ave. East in Polson, just south of the Linderman Elementary School track and field. To arrange an inspection call 406-675-2700, ext. 7280 or 406-261-6515 Monday through Thursday, between the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

More information about the CSKT Aquatic Invasive Species prevention effort is available at website:

More information on the State of Montana’s Aquatic Invasive Species effort is available at the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website, visit: