Invasive mussels on a boat prop. Photo Credit: Contributed

Invasive mussel warnings unheeded

Okanagan Basin Water Board worried about complacency

The Okanagan Basin Water Board is still feeling flustered about why efforts to prevent or respond to an invasive mussel infestation in B.C. is not falling on attentive ears.

Board officials were enthused about meeting with a parliamentary secretary MP from the Lower Mainland in Ottawa six months ago to raise concerns about the devastating economic impact the appearance of the mussels would bring.

As such meetings tend to go, the initial response was positive and a response was promised, although OBWB director Doug Findlater, West Kelowna’s mayor and a vocal advocate for expansion of the invasive mussel prevention program, said he felt the MP wasn’t up to speed on the issue.

But having heard no further feedback since, the water board has decided to send another letter to Ottawa asking for the promised response to their funding request.

Sue McKortoff, an OBWB director and mayor of Osoyoos, commented that 19 states in the U.S. have petitioned the U.S. Congress for funding support related to invasive mussel control issues, and the Great Lakes in Ontario have already been lost to the mussel plague.

“This isn’t an issue that should be a surprise to anyone,” McKortoff said about the potential federal Liberal government response.

OBWB chair Tracy Gray, a Kelowna city councillor, cited equal dismay with the province regarding a 70-page mussel response plan unveiled in February 2015. Only three pages were related to what to do if the mussels show up in a B.C. waterway and the report hasn’t been updated since then.

“There is a lot of background about the mussel problem in that report but if they are found somewhere, what is the plan?” Gray questioned.

Related: Invasive mussels found on 15 boats entering B.C.

The need for a response plan was one lesson learned by Montana environment officials after a positive test for mussels was detected in August 2016 and confirmed three months later in two of that state’s water reservoirs.

That positive detection sparked the immediate creation of an emergency response command centre and heightened boat quarantine measures while search efforts were intensified for further mussel detections.

One of the lessons learned, according to Montana officials, is that an emergency response plan should be detailed in structure and affected government agency responsibilities clearly defined before a mussel infestation occurs, not after one is detected.

Corinne Jackson, communications director for the OBWB, said a conference call Oct. 26 with 12 agencies in B.C. conducting invasive species outreach initiatives revealed that aquatic invasive, let alone zebra or quagga mussels, were not a high priority for groups in the Metro Vancouver area or northwest region of the province.

Citing the lack of a detailed emergency response plan, an apparent lack of interest, particularly down south in proactive invasive mussel detection efforts, and statistics showing the percentage of boats caught carrying invasive mussels at inspection stations being the same for the last two years, OBWB operatons and grants manager James Littley said the problem is not being “treated like the potential natural disaster that it is.”

Related: Warning about invasive mussels

The province reports that of the 35,000 watercraft inspected this year as of Oct. 16, 24 were confirmed to have adult invasive mussels on board, with seven of them destined for the Okanagan and 11 for the Lower Mainland.

But while the Fraser River or area lakes such as Harrison Lake would be equally susceptible to an invasive mussel infestation, other board directors were puzzled their counterparts on the coast for the Fraser Basin Council don’t share in their concern.

The economic impact of invasive mussels in lost revenue and added maintenance to aquatic infrastructure has been estimated to exceed $42 million per year in the Okanagan alone, and $500 million annually in the Pacific Northwest, the last region in North America yet to deal with the invading mussels.

The annual cost on the Great Lakes to control zebra mussels in water intakes alone is $250 million.

Mussel infestations negatively affect municipal water, hydro power and agricultural irrigation systems by clogging water intakes and distribution pipes, and fouling aquatic infrastructure such as bridges and marinas.

The sharp shells litter beaches around waterways, increasing the volume of aquatic weeds along lake shorelines and creating toxic algae blooms.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Okanagan residents can win ride in army vehicle

A social media campaign offers the chance to win a ride in the Dragoons armoured vehicle

Reel Reviews: War from both sides of the desk

We say, “Forgive these films their faults and they will be entertaining enough.”

Residents should keep air intakes clear of snow

Silver Star Fire Department is encouraging residens to keep their air intakes clear after snowfall

Provincial program offers assistance to agricultural producers

AgriStability Enhancement Program benefits agricultural producers who saw an income decline in 2017

‘Backs game cancelled due to weather

Match-up against Merritt called off as heavy snow creates treacherous roads

PHOTOS: Icing the competition

Skate Canada 2018 Okanagan Regional Championships skated through Vernon this weekend

Calgary man dies in Mexico following sudden illness

Troy Black was with his wife, Lindsay, in Puerto Vallarta when he began vomiting blood on Thursday

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Virtue and Moir break their own world record

Virtue and Moir break short dance record to sit first in ice dance at Olympics

Trump gets angry about election meddling, but not at Russia

‘Weirdest thing’: Trump expresses anger, but not over Russian election-meddling

New doping charge could hurt Russia’s chance at reinstatement

Russia could lose its chance to be reinstated before the end of the Winter Olympics because of a doping charge against curling bronze medallist Alexander Krushelnitsky.

Okanagan Hockey Academy alum nets first Olympic goal in semifinal win

Canada will face the U.S. inwomen’s hockey gold medal final of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics

‘Black Panther’ blows away box office with $192M weekend

In estimates Sunday, Disney predicted a four-day holiday weekend of $218 million domestically and a global debut of $361 million.

Coquihalla lane closed due to crash

A crash has snarled traffic on the Coquihalla

Most Read