$3 million added to war on mussels - Daily Courier: News

$3 million added to war on mussels

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Posted: Thursday, March 30, 2017 1:45 pm

The campaign to keep invasive mussels out of B.C. lakes is getting a $3-million boost.

Premier Christy Clark announced Thursday in West Kelowna that the money will help pay for two new inspection stations, longer inspection hours, more inspectors and a mussel-sniffing dog.

The province hopes to stop boats that may be carrying zebra and quagga mussels before they enter local lakes.

“Invasive mussels have spread to provinces and states throughout North America but not yet in B.C., and we’re focused on keeping it that way,” said Clark in a news release. “That’s why we’re adding more inspection stations, extended hours and staff, and Canada’s first multi-purpose mussel-sniffing dog — to protect our most precious resource, our waterways.”

Two new border inspection stations will open at Yahk and Midway, bringing the total number of stations in B.C. to 10. The province’s busiest station at Golden will be open 24 hours. The remaining nine stations will have their hours extended, generally from dawn to dusk. The inspection operating season will now run from mid-March until mid-November.

The province is also adding 35 inspection officers, bringing the total to 68 auxiliary conservation officers.

The provincial government will also provide the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation with three years of support to expand lake monitoring to detect potential invasive mussel larvae.

The province is also unleashing Kilo, a German shepherd being trained to sniff out mussels, as well as firearms and bear parts. Beginning July 1, Kilo will work with a conservation officer handler at high-volume stations to help detect invasive mussels.

Shelley Cook, who’s running for the NDP against Clark in the Kelowna West riding in the May 9 election, said the government’s commitment to fighting a mussel invasion is welcome but, like many recent announcements, has come late.

“It’s welcome and frustrating at the same time,” she said.

Cook said the NDP proposed stronger measures in a 2015 private member’s bill that the party still supports. Spencer Chandra Herbert’s bill, based on Alberta legislation, would create mandatory inspection stations at B.C.’s borders and detain any boats discovered to be infected.

Total program funding is now $4.5 million annually, with contributions coming from BC Hydro, Columbia Power, Fortis BC and Columbia Basin Trust.

“A lot of the items that have been on our wish list are being announced today,” said Okanagan Basin Water Board chairwoman Tracy Gray.

It is mandatory for motorists with watercraft to report to an inspection station during operating hours. Motorists who fail to stop at an inspection station can be fined $345.

In 2016, 24,500 watercraft were inspected for quagga and zebra mussels.

Zebra and quagga mussels can significantly alter the food web, resulting in the collapse of native fish populations, including sockeye salmon. They can clog pipes and water systems, and can ultimately affect municipal and industrial water supplies, the province said.

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