There are growing concerns that the Okanagan’s ecosystem could eventually be threatened by alien invaders.
The Okanagan Basin Water Board is spending considerable time investigating how to prevent the zebra and quagga mussels from showing up in local lakes.
“We don’t want to be alarmist but it’s not something we can ignore,” said director Juliette Cunningham.
“People are saying, ‘It’s not if it happens, it’s when it happens.”
Both mussels are native to eastern 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.
“The mussels can decompose bridges,” said Cunningham, adding that the financial impact on infrastructure and tourism can be substantial.
“The damage they do to recreation is huge. They’re like razor blades when they wash up on the beach.”
OBWB wants to make sure the mussels aren’t introduced to local lakes on boats coming from outside of the Okanagan.
“We want to be proactive about public education,” said Cunningham.
The Greater Vernon Advisory Committee will write to the federal government and demand action to address the spread of the zebra and quagga mussels.
GVAC is also supporting a $10,000 application from the Okanagan Invasive Species Society to OBWB for invasive mussel prevention.