by Birgit Arnstein, President, OLWQS

On August 20th, the Invasive Mussel Defense Program staff provided a power point presentation and a demonstration in the new Osoyoos & District Museum & Archives building and in its adjacent parking lot.

SGT J.D. Lockwood and Inspection Officer Sharon Crocker speak with audience about keeping invasive mussels out of Osoyoos Lake. Photo Credit Neil Bousquet
SGT J.D. Lockwood and Inspection Officer Rebecca Benham speak with audience about keeping invasive mussels out of Osoyoos Lake. Photo Credit Neil Bousquet
SGT J.D. Lockwood discusses with audience how important it is to acknowledge that it is everyone’s responsibility to
keep mussels out of Osoyoos Lake. Photo Credit Neil Bousquet

Sergeant Josh Lockwood, Officer Becca Benham and Officer Sharon Crocker provided a very informative demonstration.

Many years ago, Invasive Mussels arrived in the St. Lawrence Seaway inside a ship from the Baltic Sea. The ship had zebra and quagga mussels in its bilge.  These tiny finger nail size mussels can survive in a damp environment for up to 30 days.  One zebra or quagga  female can produce one million eggs per year. 

The byssel threads (strong silky fibers that are made from proteins that are used by invasive mussels to attach themselves to hard surfaces e.g. rocks, boats, docks, motor propellers) and enable the mussels to ‘swim’ and attach to various watercraft as well as floaties, kayaks, hip waders, life jackets, boat motors etc.  They also encrust docks, lake intake pipes, basically anything that has a hard surface and is in a lake.  The dead shells are razor sharp and necessitate the use of very thick protective footwear.

These invasive mussels are now found in all the Great Lakes, Lake Winnipeg as well as many lakes in the United States, including Nevada, Utah, Colorado, California, Montana, Arizona and Texas.  Fortunately, no invasive mussels have been found in British Columbia, Alberta, Idaho, Oregon or Washington State to date.  Currently, there are no successful means to rid infested waterways.  Prevention through thorough inspection and  adherence of boat users to follow the protocols of ‘CLEAN, DRAIN & DRY’ for all water craft/toys as well as all paraphernalia that is taken from one lake to another is our best protection. 

The town of Osoyoos’ infrastructure and indeed the tourism industry would be severely impacted if zebra or quagga mussels entered our waters.  Millions upon millions would be required to offset the great damage these mussels would do to our lake.  The fish stocks including the recently re-established sockeye salmon in our lakes would be depleted.  Important lake nutrients would be eliminated thus affecting all life forms in the lake.  These mussels may also harm drinking water as the natural nutrient balance is impaired. Local real estate properties and tourism would be severely impacted.

British Columbia has a number off inspection stations – at border crossings, along the major highways.  Golden has a 24/7 inspection station which also has a dog (Kilo) who has been trained to detect these invasive mussels and their larval forms.  Travellers with any watercraft must stop at these inspection stations.  They are asked where their boat has been, when it was last in a body of water.  Boats and other water craft are examined and decontaminated, if necessary. Failure to stop at inspection stations can result in high fines and possibly impounding a boat.

Failure to stop at a mandatory inspection in British Columbia will result in a fine of $345 fine potential impounding of your watercraft and equipment. Photo Credit Neil Bousquet

If a boat needs to be decontaminated – Water heated to 160C is sprayed over all surfaces including into the motor.

Our lifestyle would be very adversely impacted if these mussels entered our waters. 

Inspection Officer Rebecca Benham explains process for assessing each watercraft to determine if it is contaminated with invasive mussels.
Photo Credit Neil Bousquet
Inspection officers (l-r) Rebecca Benham and Sharon Cocker (in Blue caps and shirts) answered numerous questions from the audience including Okanagan Basin Water Board Chair Sue McKortoff (far right). Photo Credit Neil Bousquet
Super high powered water spray removes everything from the exterior of the boats hull. Photo Credit Neil Bousquet

Mussel Detective, Rebecca Benham explains how she will flush out potential mussel larvae through the motor.
Photo Credit Neil Bousquet
Extremely hot liquid is pumped through the motor to remove any potential mussel larvae that may be inside.
Photo Credit Neil Bousquet

Super high pressure hose is used to remove any debris on the outside of a watercraft. Photo Credit Neil Bousquet

Every inch of the exterior of the watercraft, it motor and trailer are treated with a super high powered spray.
Photo Credit Neil Bousquet
Even the hard to get to places are tackled head on by the Mussel Defence Program team. Photo Credit Neil Bousquet

Photo Credit Neil Bousquet
SGT J.D. Lockwood explains how three simple words can make all the difference CLEAN, DRAIN & DRY every watercraft from a boat to jetski to a kayak, fishing gear to a paddleboard and wake board – EVERYTHING! Photo Credit Neil Bousquet