Public urged to lobby officials over mussels
North Okanagan residents are being urged to protect their lifestyle and economy.
The City of Vernon is encouraging the public to demand the federal and provincial governments take action to prevent quagga and zebra mussels from arriving in the valley.
“We’re encouraging residents to write their MLAs and MPs,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham.
Letter templates can be found at www.vernon.ca/mussels.
The mussels are indigenous to Europe and since arriving in North America, they have spread across the continent, clogging water intake pipes and boat motors.
They also deplete food sources for fish, produce toxins that contaminate drinking water and razor-sharp shells spread across beaches.
On March 12, a truck at the Osoyoos border crossing was found to be transporting a boat infested with the mussels.
The border guard didn’t have the legal authority to stop the truck from entering, but he was aware of concerns about mussels and asked the truck driver to co-operate. The boat was decontaminated before being moored on Okanagan Lake.
The Okanagan Basin Water Board has been lobbying the federal government to permit border guards to prohibit entry of any contaminated vessels. It also wants the provincial government to create an inspection program.
The city wants additional training for conservation officers and increased awareness among boat owners.
“We’ve been talking about this for a couple of years and the concern is escalating,” said Cunningham, who sits on the OBWB board.
“The longer we delay action, the more opportunity there is of an incident of mussels being introduced. This is one of the most significant risks to our environment and water.”
Cunningham isn’t sure why Victoria and Ottawa are reluctant to initiate programs when other jurisdictions have been proactive.
“Idaho has been very effective and it wouldn’t take much to replicate their program,” she said.
“It could be self-funding through boaters purchasing (contamination) stickers.”