There will be eight permanent mussel inspection stations protecting B.C. waters from invasive mussels this year, thanks to a $2 million partnership.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark made the announcement on the shores of Okanagan Lake near Kelowna on Wednesday, unveiling a plan to have five permanent stations on the B.C./Alberta border and three protecting B.C.’s border with Washington State.
The announcement is just for the 2016 boating season and the inspection stations are set to open April 1.
“To date no zebra or quagga mussels have ever been detected in B.C.’s waterways and we’re going to keep it that way, said B.C. Premier Christy Clark. “Eight more inspection stations are yet another tool towards ensuring we remain mussel-free.”
The program will be funded a series of partners. BC Hydro is providing $1.2 million while Fortis BC, Columbia Power and the Columbia Basin Trust, along with the province of B.C. are putting forward $250,000.
In total 32 conservation officers will work the stations 10 hours a day, seven days a week from April through October.
“It’s a massive step forward,” said a pleased Doug Findlater, the chairman of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, a stewardship group who has been pushing the issue for the past several years.
“We appreciate the stations, the staffing, the signage and the decontamination units,” said Findlater, adding a note of caution. “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 move was applauded by the Invasive Species Council of BC.
“These boat inspections will enhance our work in education and awareness through the Clean, Drain, Dry program,” said Gaill Wallin, the council’s executive director, in a news release. “There is a role for all of us who use our waters to make sure our equipment and boats are clean before going to other lakes or streams to keep BC free of invasive species, including zebra and quagga mussels.”
The program also includes:
— Increased highway signage near the stations
— Expanded Report All Poachers or Polluters response line coverage
— Increased opportunities to promote Clean, Drain, Dry education program