Board asks Ottawa to flex muscles on mussels

Ottawa is being pressured to stop the potential invasion of mussels in the Okanagan

Ottawa is being pressured to stop the potential invasion of mussels in the Okanagan.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board has written a letter to several ministers in the new Liberal government about the risk of zebra and quagga mussels.

“We want to make them aware of the need for a significant investment (in prevention),” said Juliette Cunningham, an OBWB and Regional District of North Okanagan director.

Since the mussels have taken hold across the U.S. and throughout Manitoba, the OBWB has been concerned they will appear in Kalamalka, Okanagan and other lakes.

“We have to throw a lot of resources into preventing them from moving further west,” said Cunningham.

The mussels are native to Europe and they have spread across North America since the 1980s.

These mussels clog water intake pipes, pumps and boat motors. They also deplete food sources for fish and produce toxins that kill fish and birds and contaminate drinking water.

Among the action being sought from Ottawa is providing training and appropriate resources to border agents to ensure they can inspect and stop mussel infested watercraft from entering Canada.

OBWB also wants full-time seasonal inspection stations at major provincial crossings in Banff and Jasper national parks to protect the Columbia and Fraser River systems and Pacific salmon.

There is also a call for the federal government to become more active in the Pacific Northwest Economic Region Invasive Species Working Group,  which involves U.S. states.

“We can be effective if we combine our resources,” said Cunningham.

Another recommendation is for Ottawa to provide funding to Ontario and Manitoba to contain existing infestations at source waters, while directing funds to Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. for a co-ordinated inspection plan for areas not infested.

“We applaud the government of Canada’s stated commitment to provide much needed infrastructure improvement for Canadian communities,” said Doug Findlater, OBWB chairperson, in the letter.

“While we support this investment, particularly in the area of water supply and quality improvement infrastructure, the cost of necessary future investments in retrofitting and maintenance can be greatly reduced by preventing the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels.”