The Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC) and the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSIS) are sounding the alarm about the impact invasive mussels would have on local lake ecosystems.
A recent provincial report said that a zebra and/or quagga mussel (ZQM) infestation would cost B.C. between $64 million and $129 million annually. This estimate is up from a 2013 study that estimated the costs of a ZQM invasion to be approximately $53 million annually.
According to Erin Vieira, program manager for the Shuswap Watershed Council, these costs estimates underscore the importance of preventing an invasion of ZQM in B.C.
The report breaks down the cost estimates on an annual basis as follows: hydro infrastructure ($17.2 –23.3 million), municipal and domestic water supply infrastructure ($8 – 49.7 million), agriculture and golf course irrigation ($2.5 – 5.3 million), maintenance to boats and marinas ($3.7 – 8.1 million), lost profits and revenues from the tourism industry ($2.5 – 12.6 million), loss in residential property values and property taxes due to reduced water quality and shoreline values ($30.2 million).
The SWC highlights that these costs would be borne by ratepayers, taxpayers, businesses and property owners.
The report clarifies that if accidentally introduced to B.C., it would take time for ZQM to establish and reproduce and costs would increase gradually over time.
“Preventing the spread of invasive mussels is key. Watercraft users should clean-drain-dry every time they move their watercraft – that includes boats, paddleboards, kayaks and canoes, inflatable dinghies, personal watercraft, and more,” said Robyn Hooper, executive director of CSISS.
To date, ZQM occur in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, as well as over 24 states in the U.S.
Travellers coming to B.C. with watercraft are required to stop at watercraft inspection stations along their travel route. A member of the BC Conservation Officer Service will inspect and, if necessary, decontaminate travellers’ watercraft.
“The Shuswap Watershed Council is committed to continuing with our work to educate and advocate for better protection measures from the provincial and federal governments in order to minimize the risk of an invasion,” explained Vieira.