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Canadians worry about mussels

Officials seek border guard authority to deny entry into B.C.

— Thinking about boating on the Canadian side of Lake Osoyoos or in other British Columbian waters? Better inspect your vessel for zebra and quagga mussels.

Following a March 12 incident in which a boat crossing the international border here was found to be mussel-infested, Canadian officials are stepping up their efforts to draw attention to the problem.

As a result, Regional District of North Okanagan Director Juliette Cunningham is urging the Canadian government to give border guards the authority to deny boaters entry into British Columbia if their vessel is found to have zebra or quagga mussels.

Indigenous to Europe, the small freshwater mussels reproduce rapidly and deplete nutrients in the water, jeopardizing power and water infrastructures, damaging ecosystems and destroying recreational areas.

That authority would extend not only to land entry, but also waterborne traffic on Lake Osoyoos and other bodies of water.

Cunningham is following the lead of the Okanogan Basin Water Board, which has long sought giving border guards the authority to prohibit vessels from entering Canada if mussels are found aboard.

Under current Canadian law, a border guard doesn’t have the legal authority to deny entry into British Columbia, but can ask vessel owners to have boats decontaminated before putting them in the water.

The move by Canadian officials isn’t the only one recently discussed as a way to control the spread of the invasive species.

Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 6040 into law in an effort to protect Washington state waters.

The bill’s author, Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, said the law allows state Department of Fish and Wildlife to bolster vessel checkpoints for mussel inspections.

“These mussels reproduce quickly and begin to cover water pumping stations, generator turbines, shoes, boat hulls and motors, anything in their path,” Honeyford said.

“All levels of government must take this on,” Cunningham said.

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