$1.3 million invaders plan: Mussels ‘big threat’ to Columbia River, dam system

Revelstoke-based invasive species society says new program is welcomed

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A new invasive species program aimed at aquatic mussels will ramp up enforcement efforts in B.C. Photo: Government of B.C. image

The Government of B.C. today unveiled a new $1.3 million plan to prevent invasive mussels from entering waterways in B.C.

The focus of the new plan is “early detection and rapid response.”

The mussels are hugely destructive to aquatic ecosystems and can devastate fish stocks including salmon and kokanee. The mussels aggressively attach themselves to surfaces and create huge ongoing clean-up costs for water systems, hydro dams, agriculture, industry and recreation facilities.

Quagga and zebra mussels have yet to be detected in B.C. They are typically imported to lakes through boats that have not been properly decontaminated. The plan focuses on bolstering defences, including:

  • -Three mobile decontamination units.
  • -Six trained auxiliary conservation officers.
  • -Highway signage throughout the province.
  • -Expanded monitoring for zebra and quagga mussels.
  • -Report All Poachers or Polluters response line coverage.
  • -Increasing “Clean, Drain, Dry” education and outreach activities.

B.C. environment minster Mary Polak said the new funding was part of ongoing enforcement efforts. “This is a major step in our ongoing efforts to keep the provinces’ ecosystems, hydro stations, drinking water facilities and salmon populations safe. It also provides specialized training and summer employment to university students specializing in environmental compliance.”

Natalie Stafl, the Revelstoke-based executive director of the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society, said the news of expanded focus on the aquatic invasives is welcomed, saying the news was a “big deal.”

Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society staff Robyn Hooper (program manager, left) and Natalie Stafl (executive director, right). Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society staff Robyn Hooper (program manager, left) and Natalie Stafl (executive director, right). Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

“We are encouraged that the province is taking action to help prevent zebra and quagga mussels from establishing in B.C.,” Stafl said. “This is a very important step in the right direction to protect our lakes and rivers.”

Columbia-River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald said the announcement was “an important first step” to protect rivers and lake.

“There has been a tremendous amount of public pressure on government to take responsibility for ensuring that British Columbia’s waterways do not become infested with invasive mussels,” Macdonald said. “Other jurisdictions have been much quicker than British Columbia to take action, and that has been a huge concern.”

Macdonald said he’d monitor the rollout of the program.

“But the proof will be in the implementation of the plan, and whether or not the government chooses to extend and expand the program. One summer will not solve this issue. A commitment must be made by government to take this seriously, not just this year but permanently,” Macdonald said.

BC Hydro CEO Chris O’Riley said the mussels are a threat to Columbia River facilities: “Invasive mussels can impact the efficiency of our hydroelectric generating facilities by attaching themselves to surfaces on our dams,” O’Riley said. “This is a big threat, especially to our facilities on the Columbia River, where about 50% of the electricity used by British Columbians each year is generated.”

 

Aaron Orlando
Aaron Orlando is the Creative Director of revelstokemountaineer.com and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's worked in Revelstoke as a journalist and editor for the past 12 years. If you have tips on Revelstoke news, events, outdoor life, community or anything else, contact Aaron at aaron@revelstokemountaineer.com or call/text Aaron at 250-814-8710.