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Vernon RCMP volunteers are checking boats again

COVID-19 previously paused all police volunteer programs
RCMP volunteers are back at Paddlewheel Park pre-checking watercraft as of Aug. 21, 2020. (Contributed)

Boaters wondering where the marine vessel pre-check program has been worry not, it’s back.

The Vernon North Okanagan RCMP and City of Vernon announced the RCMP voluntary pre-check program is returning Friday, Aug. 21.

Volunteers will be stationed at the Paddlewheel Park boat launch as of today.

Volunteers will be checking watercraft for Quagga and Zebra invasive mussels to ensure the Okanagan’s lakes and waterways are protected.

All RCMP volunteer programs in Vernon were suspended in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But since then, a safe operation plan has been developed to allow for this outdoor program while ensuring appropriate COVID-19 protocols are in place protecting both the volunteers and members of the public.

Although pre-checks aren’t mandatory, they are recommended for vessel operators.

These trained RCMP volunteers assist the Marine Unit by completing the inspection as per the Canada Shipping Act. Upon completion of the inspection, the vessel operator is provided with documentation they can present to police if stopped on the water — fast tracking the entire process.

“The work being done by these volunteers is an important initiative, as it helps speed up our checks on the water,” said Const. Tibor Baldauf, who is one of two RCMP members who patrol the lakes around Vernon.

These RCMP volunteers also work in conjunction with OASISS — a non-profit organization working to prevent, monitor and control the spread of invasive species in the Okanagan-Similkameen region.

If a boat is deemed high-risk for invasive mussels, or if the volunteers observe anything suspicious, they will call the reporting line, or have the operators call in to 1-877-952-7277.

If a watercraft is arriving from an area known to be contaminated by mussels, boaters may be required to have the boat quarantined or decontaminated.

As of December 2012, B.C. law requires that no Zebra or Quagga Mussel, alive or dead, be present on boats or related equipment. Failure to clean mussels off boats or equipment could result in a fine of up to $100,000.

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