Since the November announcement of invasive mussels found in Tiber Reservoir, the state's response team has been working hard to assess the situation and develop plans for the upcoming recreation season. The information coming from the Mussel Response Incident Team has been changing daily.
Finally, the changes have slowed down enough that a picture is starting to come into focus. I can tell you that boating and water recreation in Montana will be very different this year.
Here's what I know at this moment (Feb. 10, 9 a.m.).
Tiber Reservoir: Multiple samples from multiple sites around the reservoir were positive for the juvenile form of the mussels, called veligers. These findings were confirmed by two independent laboratories. Tiber Reservoir is certainly positive for the mussels.
Canyon Ferry: One sample from one location was called positive by one laboratory. The sample was too degraded to be confirmed by a second lab. Fifty-six additional samples were negative. The Incident Team is playing it safe and treating Canyon Ferry as positive but is officially designated as suspicious.
Boaters may still use Tiber Reservoir and Canyon Ferry but boats will be decontaminated when they leave.
The number of watercraft inspection stations is being doubled. The goal is to beef up the perimeter defense to prevent contaminated boats from entering Montana. The second goal is to create a firewall along the continental divide to protect the mussel-free waters west of the divide.
In addition to the increased inspection stations, two rules are being developed and are currently working through the rule-writing process. These are para-phrased.
Rule 1: All watercraft entering the state must be inspected before launching. The burden is on the boater to obtain an inspection before using Montana waters. If a boater enters the state at night and the inspection station is closed, it is still the boater's responsibility to take his boat to an inspection station during operational hours and get an inspection.
Rule 2: All watercraft entering the Special Management Area (all of Montana west of the divide) must be inspected before launching. Because all mussel-fouled waters in Montana are east of the divide, the Incident Team is establishing a Special Management Area consisting of all of Montana west of the divide. Again, the burden is on the boater to obtain an inspection before launching when bringing a watercraft into the Special Management Area. Watercraft already inside the management area may move freely and don't require inspection.
The Clearwater Resource Council receives state funding to do the monitoring in our area. We monitor the six heaviest used lakes: Alva, Inez, Seeley, Salmon, Placid and Big Sky. We will be augmenting our monitoring protocols. We can always use more help. The same few people have generously given of their time and their boats to monitor our lakes for the past six years. Efforts will more than double this year. If we share the load, no one person is unfairly overburdened.
The biggest issue for the Clearwater that remains unresolved is what more are we going to do, beyond what the state is doing, to protect our waters? Is the state plan enough? Do we want to do more? If you would like to help with this discussion, please let me know.
To volunteer in any way, call me at 210-8453 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.