MLA Report: Not doing enough to protect B.C. waters

need for the provincial government to vigorously protect our lakes and rivers

I have written many times about the need for the provincial government to vigorously protect our lakes and rivers from some particularly challenging invasive species, quagga and zebra mussels.

These mussels are from Russia originally but, many decades ago, this invasive species became established in the Great Lakes region. And just last year, they came to Manitoba.

While the zebra mussel has predators in Europe, those predators are rare in North America. An adult zebra mussel can survive for a number of days out of water, which allows them to be transferred from water body to water body on boats.

Once established, zebra and quagga mussels cannot be eliminated from our lakes and rivers, and the impacts they will have are profound and costly.

It only makes sense, economically and environmentally, to keep zebra and quagga mussels out of B.C.’s lakes and rivers by checking every single boat entering the province from other jurisdictions.

In the two-week summer session of the B.C. Legislature, the BC NDP proposed legislation similar to Alberta’s that would require the inspection of all boats coming into B.C. The BC Liberals chose to ignore the proposal, but we intend to continue to raise this important issue.

The B.C. Liberal government has been under tremendous pressure to do something to stop the infestation, and they have reacted to this pressure by setting up mobile checking units; and the Columbia Basin Trust has funded some additional stations, but these are clearly half measures.

Columbia Lake, St. Mary River, Windermere Lake, Revelstoke Lake: just some of the critically important bodies of water in this area that must be protected from zebra and quagga mussels.

To properly check all boats coming into British Columbia at every point of entry would likely cost over $2 million each year, but the impact of a zebra and quagga mussel infestation is estimated in the range of $100’s of millions per year in the Great Lakes area alone.

Better an ounce of prevention when there simply is no cure.

British Columbians must demand that their government not stop at half measures. We cannot allow our lakes and rivers to remain unprotected.

And I do not accept the argument that we can’t afford to take action — and neither should you. Remember, in their last budget, the BC Liberals gave a $135 million a year tax break to B.C.’s richest 2 per cent.

When you can afford to do that, there is no question that there is enough money to protect our province against an infestation that will devastate our environment, and our economy.

Norm Macdonald is the NDP MLA for Columbia River Revelstoke. He can be reached by phone at 1-866-870-4188 and by email at norm.macdonald.mla@leg.bc.ca.

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