Sicamous council is concerned the B.C. government is pulling away from a key pillar in its defence against invasive mussels.
In a special April 6 meeting, council voted to send a letter to B.C. Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman regarding continued funding for the province’s Invasive Mussel Defense Program and the prioritization of watercraft inspection and enforcement.
The letter was prompted by recent comments from the minister about requirements for inspection of all watercraft entering B.C. are not being pursued by the province.
Heyman said the province has learned from other jurisdictions with similar legislation in place that “this approach is very challenging to enforce and, as a result, their focus has been on education and awareness.”
He said the government will continue to prioritize public education and outreach, optimize a perimeter defence approach and investigate the potential of ‘pull the plug’ legislation, which exists in Alberta requiring watercraft owners to remove the drain plug from their boat every time it is pulled out of the water and being transported.
“At this point I don’t think they should limit the amount of inspections that they’re doing,” warned Coun. Colleen Anderson.
“We should open up the inspection stations now and let them go.
“If we get zebra mussels or any of those mussels in the Shuswap, it’s going to impact our drinking water, it’s going to impact our ecosystem, it’s going to impact the salmon run, it’s going to impact all the fish, it’s going to impact the beaches… Mussels cling to everything and sink everything. If the government feels that saving a few dollars now on border stops and checking vessels is the way to go, they’re going to miss the boat when it’s $42 million a year for B.C. to manage these mussels.”
Anderson noted there is very little moorage left in Sicamous, which she said suggests people are bringing their boats from other provinces or locations.
“We don’t know where all those boats are coming from so they have to be inspected,” said Anderson.
Coun. Malcolm Makeyev suggested inspections were underfunded, and that the province should increase funding for monitoring and awareness.
Mayor Terry Rysz said it was disturbing the province wouldn’t continue to prioritize inspection.
In May 2021, Heyman called invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels a “major threat to our ecosystems and infrastructure in British Columbia, and said the province would be taking the necessary steps to “protect our waterways today and for the years to come.”
To do this, the province offered a program consisting of three components: watercraft inspections, lake monitoring and public outreach/education.
– With files from Barry Gerding.
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