By ROY WOOD
The larvae of the zebra and quagga mussels that are a serious threat to Osoyoos Lake and other BC waterways are so small they are invisible to the naked eye.
That’s one of the things that make them so dangerous and have led to major province-wide effort to keep them out.
Barb Leslie and Martina Beck of the provincial environment ministry addressed a Town of Osoyoos council committee Monday, updating councillors on the fight against the potentially devastating invasive species.
The three main thrusts of the battle are roadside inspection stations at or near border-crossing points into the province, a public education and outreach program and collaboration and cooperation with other agencies and jurisdictions.
Eight four-person inspection teams are scattered along the eastern and southern borders, checking watercraft as they cross into the province. One of them is headquartered in Penticton, but works primarily at the Osoyoos crossing.
The teams operate from April to October and in the first two months have inspected 3,200 watercraft from 33 different provinces and states. Some 18 watercraft were issued decontamination orders, 16 were quarantined for up to 30 days and six were confirmed to have adult invasive mussels on board.
The current catch phrase bring promoted in the public education program calls on boat owners to “clean, dry and drain” their watercraft. Owners who have been in potentially contaminated waters are urged to:
- Clean off all plants, animals and mud from boats and equipment, including boats, motors, anchor ropes, paddles, life jackets, wet suits and the like;
- Drain water from live wells, bait wells, storage areas, bilge area, engine compartments, ballast tanks, etc.;
- Dry the watercraft, trainer, engine or other equipment to the point where there is no standing water present.
Zebra and quagga mussels are native to Europe and were introduced via ship ballast water into the Great Lakes in the 1980s. They spread south through the eastern US and through much of Ontario, Quebec and more recently Manitoba.
The small but rapidly reproducing creatures overgrow and clog water intakes for power stations, municipal water supplies and agricultural irrigation intakes. The potential damage in BC has been estimated at about $43 million a year, not including the effects on fishing, tourism and property values.
Some of the lessons learned from the invasion of Eurasian Milfoil into BC lakes in the 1970s are helping inform the battle against the mussels. “If we (had done) a proper clean, dry and drain program for milfoil,” Leslie told council, “We might not have had such a big problem.”