Posted: May 29, 2012 2:43 PM by Dennis Bragg (KPAX/KAJ Media Center)
Updated: May 29, 2012 9:53 PM
MISSOULA- More and more reports of non-native mussels are being found during boat inspections throughout the Northwest which has prompted Montana to step up its own inspection program this year.
"Muscle Beach" might be a famous California tourist destination, but in Montana the effort is to keep our beaches and lakes free of mussels- namely zebra and quagga mussels that have caused millions of dollars in damage.
The problem started in the Midwest and has spread across the country over the past decade, with the Northwest one of the few places where they haven't taken over.
The inspection stations manned by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks started operation two weeks ago, with more checkpoints this year.
"Check station effort has really been expanded this year. You're going to see more, along travel routes, along the borders where people are bringing their boats in from other states. If you see one and you have your boat with you it doesn't matter if it's a raft, a kayak or a motorboat, everybody with a boat has to stop and be inspected," Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Vivaca Crowser explained.
"And we'll try to get you on your way as quickly as possible. It's just trying to raise the awareness and then also do the nuts and bolts of checking your own watercraft. So we'll be out helping with that and at home just inspect, clean and dry," she continued.
The threat is becoming more real with each passing season and in the past year the number of "mussel sightings" has increased. And not just in summer. Idaho inspectors caught two vessels with mussels on Interstate 90 last winter. And there was at least one report of a sailboat with mussels at Flathead Lake.
"They're surrounding us, so as much as we can keep it contained the better. And really when you have invasives that get into the water bodies it changes the dynamics a lot. It really changes the system and that's something we want to avoid," Crowser explained."
Especially since mussels getting into Montana's water bodies had the potential for infestation into the major watersheds of the Columbia and the Missouri. Crowser says that's where vigilance is critical.
"So if you're someone taking your boat to different places across the state like many of us hope to be all over the summer then that's the big thing. As you move from one water body to the next make sure you're cleaning it. Especially if you're outside of Montana because we have some invasives that haven't been detected in Montana but have elsewhere."
Detecting the pests involves more than just a visual inspection. FWP says you should actually feel the hull of your vessel for any roughness like a sandpaper feel that could be a sign of contamination. And with the mussel problem not going away anytime soon that "inspect, clean and dry" procedure is something we all have to apply to our boating routine.