Vernon takes on mussel fight

RCMP volunteers will look for invasive mussels at the Paddlewheel Park boat launch

Vernon RCMP volunteers will be looking for invasive mussels at the Paddlewheel Park boat launch.

Vernon RCMP volunteers will be looking for invasive mussels at the Paddlewheel Park boat launch.

The City of Vernon is joining the fight against invasive mussels.

Starting Saturday, Vernon RCMP volunteers conducting vessel safety checks at the Paddlewheel Park boat launch will also start checking boats for quagga and zebra mussels.

“It’s a priority of the city to help prevent the species from entering the lake,” said Regan Borisenko, crime prevention co-ordinator.

Quagga and zebra mussels can clog pipes, cause ecological and economic damage, displace native aquatic plants and wildlife, degrade the environment and affect drinking water quality.

“This is a serious problem and we have an opportunity to help out,” said Borisenko.

“We are doing our part.”

The RCMP volunteers have been trained to identify boats from high-risk areas, such as parts of the U.S. and Eastern Canada.

They don’t have the authority to stop a boat from entering the lake, but they can provide information about decontamination and the threat mussels pose.

“If there’s a serious infestation, they can call the RCMP and ask them to come down,” said Borisenko.

The RCMP volunteers, who are at Paddlewheel Park every Saturday, will work with the Okanagan-Similkameen Invasive Species Society and the Ministry of Environment.

“This initiative will help assist us in keeping our lakes free from this invasive species,” said Barbara Leslie, aquatic invasive species inspector with the ministry.

As of December 2012, provincial laws state that no zebra or quagga mussel, alive or dead, can 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.

Vessels coming from a high-risk location, or with indicators that mussels are evident, may be required by law to be either quarantined or decontaminated.