After two years of calls to the province and federal
government to help prevent invasive zebra and quagga mussels from being brought
into Okanagan and British Columbia, the Okanagan Basin Water Board and its Okanagan
WaterWise program are ramping up efforts.
As of this week the local government agency, responsible for
providing leadership on water issues that span the valley, has launched a
“Speak out!” initiative, inviting Okanagan residents to go to www.DontMoveAMussel.ca and write to
their MLA and their MP and urge action.
“We need the provincial and federal governments to step up
to the plate. Zebra and quagga mussels are a triple threat to our well-being,”
explained OBWB Chair Doug Findlater. “They pose a significant environmental
threat, a threat to our infrastructure which we’ll all pay for with increased
taxes, and an economic threat – to tourism and more.”
Research conducted for the OBWB notes that an invasion of
these mussels, originally from Europe, could cost the Okanagan more than $43
million a year to just manage. They are known to stimulate toxic algae blooms,
litter beaches with sharp shells, clog boat motors, foul water intakes and
outfalls, and put fish and the ecology of lakes at risk. There is no proven
method to eradicate the mussels once they arrive that doesn’t also cause
significant environmental impacts.
The agency launched the Don’t Move a Mussel campaign last
summer to inform residents of the threat these mussels pose, and to support
efforts by water stewardship groups to encourage boaters and those with other
watercrafts to “Clean, Drain, Dry” their equipment.
At the same time, the OBWB has been calling on the federal
government to pass pending legislation allowing Canada Border Services agents
to stop and inspect boats coming into Canada, and urging the province to bring
in inspection stations – similar to U.S. programs that have self-funded
boater-pay sticker programs. The province has estimated an effective inspection
program would be about $2.4 million per year (15 stations at a cost of
$60,000-$160,000 each per year).
“We’ve done our research, boat inspections stations and the
right legislation in place are key,” Findlater noted. “It’s impractical to be
at each boat launch with so many private launch sites. But, there are only so
many roads into the province and these can be monitored much more easily.
“This effort to encourage residents to join us in our call
for action comes from valley citizens themselves who have been asking ‘What can
we do?’,” added Findlater.