Vernon council joins fight against mussels

Vernon is demanding senior politicians take the invasive mussels threat seriously.

Vernon is demanding senior politicians take the invasive mussels threat seriously.

Council will write the federal and provincial governments, including the local MP and MLA, and urge action to prevent zebra and quagga mussels from arriving in the Okanagan water basin.

“It kind of scares me,” said Coun. Catherine Lord.

“The lakes are one of the big attractions we have and we don’t want to see anyone disrupt that.”

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.

“There are lakes in the States where there are signs saying, “Wear your shoes,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky of the damage mussel shells can cause to feet.

There was a close call March 12 when 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.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board has asked  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.

“Our whole economy in many ways relies on the lakes so we need some buy-in from the federal and provincial governments,” said Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe.

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

Sawatzky will contact senior officials about the mussels but he admits letters have been written before.

“The complete lack of response is what’s outstanding,” he said.