Great Falls Tribune: Daines Calls for Help with Invasive Mussels

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., on Monday wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to request the expedited implementation and distribution of funds for watercraft inspection stations.

Daines’ letter comes in the wake of confirmed invasive mussel larvae in the Tiber Reservoir and potentially in Canyon Ferry. If adult mussels spread, they threaten to block hydropower and irrigation ducts. Invasive mussels also negatively impact the ecosystem, recreation and tourism of affected areas.

“Montana has already spent nearly $1 million on operating 16 inspection stations this year,” Daines said in his letter. “Montana has plans to expand the number and hours of inspections stations to further mitigate this threat. However, the federal match is urgently needed by April 1, 2017, before next year’s water recreation season begins and Montana sees an exponential increase in boat traffic and risk.”

Boating has been temporarily banned in Glacier National Park and Blackfeet Tribal waters to prevent the further spread of larvae.

“Montana’s mussel invasion created headlines at the Pacific Northwest Economic Region meeting in Boise on Thursday and Friday. It’s the nightmare you don’t want,” Mike Cuffe, a vice president and Montana representative of Pacific Northwest Economic Region, said. “So we desperately need these preventative dollars released for the good of Montana and the other northwest states.”

Mussels spread in moving water or by attaching themselves to boats, and it’s likely that the microscopic larvae arrived on a boat from out of state.

A range of outcomes are possible, from no establishment of adult aquatic invasive mussels and no effects on lake/reservoir services, to full establishment and significant effects, according to the DNRC.

Other states have seen that range of impacts in water bodies with established quagga or zebra populations. .

FWP is going to look at setting up water craft inspection stations where boats can be decontaminated.

Options for chemically killing the mussels is limited because it can affect other species.

FWP and other entities have been actively monitoring for zebra and quagga mussels for over a decade.

Until 2016, neither zebra nor quagga mussels had been detected in Montana waters.