The B.C. government plans to add permanent inspection stations at major entry points along B.C.’s borders in its continuing fight to keep Quagga and zebra mussels out of the province.
But Osoyoos — despite its Hwy. 97 crossing into Washington state and busy Hwy. 3 location — isn’t among the eight communities where the permanent stations will be placed.
Instead, Osoyoos Lake will receive, at best, part-time inspection capability with a mobile application waiting in Penticton if a watercraft is detained in the Osoyoos area.
Five inspection stations will be set up along the B.C.-Alberta border, and three along the B.C.-United States border. The stations are scheduled to open tomorrow (April 1) for the 2016 boating season.
In total, 32 conservation officers will work the stations, which will operate 10 hours a day, seven days a week from April through October. The eight inspection stations will have the capability to become mobile if the need arises, travelling to locations throughout B.C. where watercrafts are being detained, waiting for decontamination.
According to the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB), which plays a leading role in the fight against mussel infestation in the valley, the closest permanent inspection station to Osoyoos will be in Penticton. Other stations will be located at Golden, Valemount, Dawson Creek, Cranbrook, Invermere, Nelson, and in the Lower Mainland.
“It’s a massive step forward,” said a pleased Doug Findlater, Chair of the OBWB. “When coupled with the perimeter defence of other provinces and states, this gives us much better protection than we’ve had in the past.”
He noted, however, the private nature of the funding and expressed concerns about the program’s longevity.
“External agency funding partnerships are great, but they don’t last forever. We hope the province makes this a permanent mussel defence program and commits to ongoing core funding.”
The $2-million program includes funding from BC Hydro, FortisBC, Columbia Power and the Columbia Basin Trust. The Province is contributing in kind with staff, equipment and office space.
The program will also consist of:
- Increased highway signage at permanent inspection station locations;
- Expanded monitoring for Quagga and zebra mussels;
- Expanded Report All Poachers or Polluters response line coverage;
- Increased opportunities to promote “Clean, Drain Dry” education and outreach activities.
Quagga and zebra mussels pose a serious threat to B.C.’s aquatic ecosystems, salmon populations, hydro power stations and other infrastructure facilities. They can clog pipes, cause ecological and economic damage, displace native aquatic plants and wildlife, degrade the environment and affect drinking water quality.
The Invasive Mussel Defence pilot program was launched in 2015. During May-October 2015, more than 4,300 boats were inspected, of which 70 were identified as coming from an invasive mussel infested province or state. Out of these 70 watercrafts, 34 required decontamination and 15 were confirmed to be transporting invasive mussels or their larvae. Six were issued a 30-day quarantine order due to risk of live mussels.
“Quagga and zebra mussels pose significant risk to more than just ecosystems, but to agricultural irrigation and more,” said Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick. “It is important to keep invasive mussels out of B.C. to reduce the risk of financial hardship for the agricultural industry.”
The public is encouraged to report mussel-affected boats/equipment to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service’s Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1 877 952-7277.