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Anti-mussel offensive starts in the East Kootenay

This weekend, a pilot program with a mandate to stop aquatic invasive species from invading our waterways and ecosystems will be launching in the region.

The East Kootenay Invasive Plant Council (EKIPC) is teaming up with Conservation Officers to educate the public about the threat of invasive species.

"Over the long weekend, we will be covering border crossings, boat launches, and lakes in the area to ensure widespread message distribution," said Todd Larson, program manager with the EKIPC.

Larson said the Aquatic Invasive Species are a major threat to the waterways of our region and the province.

"Fortunately, we have been spared from the introduction of major invasive species such as zebra mussels, Asian carps and flowering rush plants, which have had a negative impact on native ecosystems and socio-economics," he said. "It is important to prevent these species from becoming established in our lakes and streams."

Recent provincial legislation has made it illegal to transport certain species.

Larson said by collaborating with the COs, EKIPC will work to educate the boating public about these risks. They also will have the authority to inspect and decontaminate any watercraft that are carrying those invasive species. EKIPC has a mobile boat decontamination station which they can transport to sites with contaminated boats.

Over the long weekend, EKIPC and COs will be inspecting boats coming across the Roosville and Kingsgate border crossings, as well as Moyie Lake, Kikomin Lake, Cutts Lake, Moyie Lake, Tie Lake, Rosen Lake, Koocanusa and others.

Larson said the initiative is the first of its kind in B.C. but has been established in the U.S. and other places in Canada.

"Neighbouring states and provinces have established mandatory boat inspection stations along highways and it is necessary to maintain this protective buffer to ensure contaminated watercraft do not launch on our pristine waterways," he said.

Boats coming from the southern U.S. into Washington, Idaho, Montana, Dakota and Utah face mandatory screenings for mussels and other invasive species. However, if a boat is not stopping in the state, it may not have to face an inspection before entering Canada. In Alberta, the U.S. has been notifying authorities when a boat could be contaminated. The Alberta have been stopping and inspecting the boats.

Those five states are the last vestiges where the mussels have not been found.

They have invaded the Great Lakes and Lake Winnepeg and seem to be encroaching on the bottom of boats from both the East and The South.

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