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Organizations from Canada, U.S. joining forces to address looming threat of invasive species

Zebra Mussels

The discovery of mussel larva in the waters of Montana's Tiber Reservoir have led a trio of west coast organizations banding together to fight the threat of invasive species.

The Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER) -- a non-profit organization that includes five states and five provinces -- issued a statement last week saying the mussels were being addressed during an economic leadership forum in Boise, Idaho.

"This is a critical issue that affects recreation, agriculture, irrigation, hydropower and other industries," said Sen. Lee Heider (R-Idaho). "When you think of the impacts of a mussel invasion, it affects the whole economy. It should be something everybody in Idaho should be concerned about."

Others have taken note too, however, with the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia (ISCBC) and Alberta Invasive Species Council (AISC) announcing they will join the PNWER later this month at an emergency meeting being called to "map out next steps to prevent serious ecological and economic damage."

Already, the organizations are calling on authorities to inspect every boat entering British Columbia, while also asking the Canadian federal government to match current provincial funding for mussel prevention and response. The parties are also urging for the establishment of an emergency response fund, as outlined in the recently signed Western Canada Invasive Mussel Prevention Framework.

"We need to look at all inspection tools, including sniffer dogs, to find the most cost-effective and sound approach," ISCBC chair Brian Heise said. "Every boat club and marine enthusiast in the province needs to commit to protecting our waters. We need to see action now."

According to PNWER, zebra and quagga mussels could cost British Columbia at least $43 million annually in damages to hydroelectric power facilities and other aquatic infrastructure.

"There has to be a cooperative effort to stop this introduction, involving each state, the federal government and those key industries that will be grossly impacted by invasive mussels," AISC executive director Barry Gibbs said. "It is not the sole responsibility of any one agency."

The organizations agreed that prevention begins by prohibiting the movement of contaminated boats from crossing into the Columbia River system from the upper reaches of the Missouri River in Montana.

"A regional defense must involve federal, provincial and state governments, and industry and volunteer organizations," the groups said in a joint release.

HydroWorld.com reported in April 2015 that the B.C. government was already moving to protect its waters from invasive species through the "Clean, Drain, Dry" program.

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