Director urges mussel lobby

Juliette Cunningham asks RDNO colleagues to personally lobby area MLAs and MPs to push for action against the invasive species

Local politicians are being urged not to stay silent over zebra and quagga mussels.

Director Juliette Cunningham asked her Regional District of North Okanagan colleagues Wednesday to personally lobby area MLAs and MPs to push for action against the invasive species.

“There has been some dialogue with the MPs in the south (end of the valley) but there must be a concerted effort from all of our politicians in the region,” she said.

“All levels of government must take this on.”

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.

A sense of urgency has developed after a truck at the Osoyoos border crossing was found to be transporting a boat infested with the mussels March 12.

The border guard didn’t have the legal authority to stop the truck from entering Canada, but he was aware of the concerns about mussels and asked the truck driver to co-operate. The boat was decontaminated before heading to its moorage spot on Okanagan Lake.

Cunningham`s plea came a day after the Okanagan Basin Water Board decided again to ask the federal government to allow border guards to prohibit entry of any contaminated vessels. It also wants the provincial government to create an inspection program.

“The longer you prevent them from arriving, the more potential there is of dealing with them,” said Cunningham referring to research looking at how to stop the spread of the mussels.

“It`s a wise investment to delay them from arriving. The cost of inspection stations is less than what we would have to pay for the consequences of them being here.”

OBWB has estimated it could cost $43 million a year to manage the mussels if they arrive in the valley.