Study detects invasive Eurasian Milfoil in Lake Revelstoke, no invasive mussels

Study confirms Eurasian Milfoil found in Lake Revelstoke at Martha Creek, but no Quagga or Zebra mussels detected in local or B.C. lakes yet. On Mar. 30, the B.C. government announced bolstered invasive species inspection stations for boats at the B.C. borders with Alberta and the U.S.

Eurasian Milfoil in Lake Revelstoke near the Martha Creek boat launch. Photo: N.Stafl CSISS

The invasive Eurasian Water Milfoil has been detected in Lake Revelstoke near the Martha Creek Provincial Park boat launch, the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society announced in a media release.

Last autumn, the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) completed invasive plant and mussel detection surveys in high priority lakes in the North Columbia.

There were no Quagga or Zebra mussels detected in their study of Lake Kinbasket, Lake Revelstoke, The Upper Arrow reservoir, and the Columbia River, but the milfoil was discovered at Martha Creek.

CSISS said their discovery confirms early studies by BC Hydro and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations that originally found this site infestation.

Invasive milfoil and invasive mussels take over riparian and recreational water areas, making it dangerous and difficult for swimmers and native aquatic life. Eurasian Water Milfoil is found throughout the Shuswap Lake region, and the CSRD runs a program funded by Shuswap residents to manage milfoil infestations at public recreational areas.

Invasive Quagga Mussel pictured in Lake Mead in the U.S.  Photo: CSISS
Invasive Quagga Mussel pictured in Lake Mead in the U.S. Photo: CSISS

“Invasive Zebra and Quagga mussels have not been detected in British Columbia, and are a real threat to our economy and environment: it would cost millions of dollars annually to maintain infested hydro-dam and water-valve infrastructure; in addition, invasive mussels would pollute our beaches, and decimate native aquatic life,” says CSISS Program Manager Robyn Hooper, “It is illegal in BC to transport invasive mussels on your watercraft.”

“The Eurasian Milfoil site at Martha Creek goes to show that we need to constantly be on the look-out for new invaders threatening our lakes and rivers,” says the CSISS Executive Director Natalie Stafl, “We encourage all watercraft users to properly clean, drain and dry their equipment to protect our waters.”

In a media release, CSISS said they are working with the appropriate jurisdictions and stakeholders regarding a strategy for the Eurasian Milfoil infestation in Lake Revelstoke, under the guidance of the Canadian Columbia Basin Aquatic Invasive Species Framework. CSISS is planning more invasive plant and mussel detection surveys for 2016, and is excited to have Laura Gaster back with the CSISS staff team as the new Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator this spring.

CSISS is a non-profit organization focused on prevention, management and reduction of invasive species in the Columbia-Shuswap region.

Province announces new permanent inspection stations

On Mar. 30, Premier Christy Clark announced a $2 million boost to the province’s invasive mussel defence program that will see eight permanent mussel inspection stations installed at major entry points along B.C.’s borders.

Inspecting a boat for invasive mussels, Lake Mead, USA. (CSISS)
Inspecting a boat for invasive mussels, Lake Mead, USA. (CSISS)

“B.C. is leading the fight against invasive species,” said Premier Clark in a media statement. “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. Eight more inspection stations are yet another tool towards ensuring we remain mussel-free.”

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 program will see five inspection stations set up along the B.C./Alberta border and three on the B.C./U.S. border. They come into operation on April 1.

Stakeholders had called for increased inspection to stave off infestations of invasive mussels, which can cause millions in damage. In this column in the Revelstoke Mountaineer, Columbia River–Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald called for more action.

Premier Christy Clark cleans a boat at a photo op on Mar. 30 announcing new invasive species boat inspection stations at the B.C. border. Photo: B.C. government image
Premier Christy Clark cleans a boat at a photo op on Mar. 30 announcing new invasive species boat inspection stations at the B.C. border. Photo: B.C. government image

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 provincial government said this represents an increase of 20 crew members from last year’s pilot and an additional six mobile decontamination units are being added to the fleet of equipment.

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.

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

The new program is funded by BC Hydro, FortisBC, Columbia Power and the Columbia Basin Trust, who will add to the $2 million program. The Province is also contributing in kind with staff, equipment and office space.

“Invasive mussels are a concern to BC Hydro and we applaud the Province for taking strong measures to protect B.C.’s rivers and lakes,” said Mark Poweska, vice president, Generation BC Hydro. “BC Hydro is proud to support this initiative since invasive mussels have a detrimental impact on the environment and can impact our ability to produce power by plugging up pipes and equipment in our dams.”

The Invasive Mussel Defence pilot program was launched in 2015. During May-October 2015, over 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.

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.