District calls for action on mussels

District calls for action on mussels

Sicamous council asks for greater commitment from the province

The District of Sicamous is submitting a lengthy wish list of actions to the B.C. government for the prevention of invasive quagga and zebra mussels.

The district is calling on the province to step up response on the invasive species in order to keep them out of B.C. waters.

“We just can’t allow this to happen in our lakes… we have to find a way to stop this,” said Mayor Terry Rysz.

In a letter to the B.C. Environment minister George Heyman, the district notes the impact an infestation of the invasive mussels would have on local water bodies, including Shuswap and Mara Lakes. The letter states it would cost billions to just manage the mussels, as once lakes are infected there is little likelihood of getting rid of them. This could negatively impact ecosystems and our dependence on them for everything from drinking water to fishing and tourism.

To prevent such an occurrence, the district is suggesting the province put in place full-time border inspections or post border crossing hours for boats, and that border patrols are trained to collect the correct information from borders. Also on the district’s invasives wish list are:

• More conservation officers with more authority;

• More education, including a major media campaign announcing B.C.s commitment to keep our waters prisinte;

• More information available on municipal/local government and tourism websites;

• Funds committed to researching solutions to remove mussels;

• Collaboration with U.S. on research and prevention of cross-contamination;

• Collaboration with Alberta and Saskatchewan to stay mussel free.

The district is also calling on the province to make invasive mussels more than just a public campaign, stating “it should be a department of the government with funding to continue prevention.”

Rysz said the letter was requested by the ministry as a follow up to council’s meeting with them at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. Rysz is optimistic the ministry and the B.C. government will do more, but adds we’ll likely have to wait until summer to see. Prior to UBCM, Rysz said the district would be suggesting the province help fund the district so that it could do its own mussels inspections at district boat ramps.

“The main objective was to get the province to understand that some of the current observation points or inspection sites aren’t totally adequate for what our concerns are…,” said Rysz. “I think it remains to be seen with the province, but I feel they were certainly listening and hopefully we get to where we need to be and that’s a lot more inspections sites on the south side coming up from the States and so forth. If we see them doing their due diligence, then we probably won’t have to do inspections sites at our own boat launches.”

The district’s letter also suggests the federal government step up its involvement on the mussels issue as well.

“ I just got an email from (Okanagan-Shuswap MP) Mel Arnold and he wants to have a conversation around that,” said Rysz. “One of the components of our conversation with the province is these inspections should be happening in the waters that are contaminated, when they come out of those waters. So that’s a federal issue. I think we’re getting some reaction from that as well. I can’t really comment on what direction that is at this stage ,but I know that they’re listening and there’s certainly concern.”