Late last year, Montana DNRC managed to kill funding for the Flathead Basin Commission. The FBC had been getting a little too pushy, especially in regards to Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) prevention efforts. Well, it appears those annoying folks popped right back up as an independent organization named Watershed Protection Advocates . . .
A new player has emerged in the fight for the protection of the region’s waters, and next month the Watershed Protection Advocates of Northwest Montana will begin filling out its own “report card” on other agencies in the region.
The new advocacy group was formed by a number of former Flathead Basin Commission board members after the Flathead Basin Protection Fund pulled its financial support of the commission.
Watershed Protection Advocates is chaired by former Flathead Basin Commission chairperson Jan Metzmaker, and former Flathead Basin Commission Executive Director Caryn Miske is the sole contractor for the new advocacy group. Miske was terminated form her position on the commission in February following a series of allegations of misconduct made by Department of Natural Resources and Conservation officials.
The feds allocated $1.8 million to help Montana deal with invasive mussels this year . . .
The omnibus spending bill that Congress passed last week includes funding for Montana’s fight against aquatic invasive species.
Within the $1.3 trillion bill, $5 million is appropriated for watercraft inspections and mussel monitoring in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. An additional $1 million will go to controlling the spread of flowering rush, an invasive water plant.
Montana will receive about $1.8 million of these funds, said Kate Wilson, invasive species outreach coordinator for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
Thompson Smith, former chair and a three-term governor appointed citizen member of the Flathead Basin Commission, has an excellent op-ed posted to the Flathead Beacon this week concerning the potential de-funding of the Flathead Basin Commission . . .
Montana’s crown jewel is in imminent danger from a plan to marginalize the Flathead Basin Commission (FBC) and force out its excellent Executive Director Caryn Miske.
John Tubbs, director of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), recently proposed zeroing out the entire staff budget of the FBC. The official reason is that the budget impasse between Democrats and Republicans is now forcing agencies to cut 10 percent. That doesn’t pass the smell test. Within the DNRC, only the FBC is being targeted for a cut exceeding 70 percent – even though it constitutes just two-tenths of one percent of the department’s total budget. In fact, the proposed cut would actually result in Montana losing funding, because every year the FBC’s Miske has raised well over a half-million dollars in grant funds to bolster protection of the Flathead from the menace of aquatic invasive species (AIS).
Mussel-sniffing dogs from Alberta combed the shores of Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs during the past week, but found no evidence of invasive mussels. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) requested the assistance of the dog team in an attempt to identify adult zebra or quagga mussels following larval mussel detections last fall. This was part of a larger effort by FWP and other partners to survey for invasive mussels state-wide. Intensive plankton sampling, diver survey and snorkeling surveys have found no larval or adult zebra or quagga mussels this season in Montana waters.
Intensified survey and watercraft inspection this season was in response to larval mussel detections in Tiber Reservoir and a suspect detection in Canyon Ferry Reservoir last fall. This year FWP inspected more than 74,000 watercraft, with 17 intercepted transporting invasive mussels. Most of the boats intercepted with mussels were coming from the Great Lakes and were headed for Montana or other western states and provinces. The six Montana-bound mussel infested boats were decontaminated. The watercraft not bound for Montana were washed at the inspection station and the destination state was notified to allow for follow up and decontamination. Continue reading Mussel-sniffing dogs find no mussels→
Divers searched for adult aquatic invasive mussels at Tiber Reservoir last week, but found none.
The five divers involved in the effort were from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and coordinated by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The primary search area was Tiber Dam up to a depth of about 35 feet.
With its rock structure, the dam is good habitat for the invasive mussels, which prefer solid substances, like rocks, to attach to. However, deeper than 35 feet, silt reduced the habitat significantly.
The divers are part of FWP’s monitoring plan for Tiber Reservoir after water samples last year came back positive for aquatic invasive mussel larvae. The monitoring plan also includes an increased frequency of water sampling at the reservoir.
The divers also searched rock outcroppings around Turner Point at Tiber Reservoir. No adult invasive mussels were discovered.
The Flathead Basin Commission wants stepped up protection against invasive mussels for Flathead Lake. (The Hungry Horse News gets credit/blame for the headline pun.) . . .
With the detection of invasive mussels last November in the Tiber Reservoir, Montana lost its status as one of the last few states free of zebra or quagga mussels.
These mussels may be small, but they cause big problems. When they hitch a ride on watercraft or in bilge water and travel between water bodies, they reproduce quickly and have a host of negative effects, including structural damage, water chemistry changes, and algal blooms.
They also rob native species of food and habitat. As the mussels infest water bodies increasingly closer to the Flathead Basin, conservation organizations are scrambling to develop new plans for prevention and management. The current state plan for managing aquatic invasive species includes three links in a “protective tripod,” as Thompson Smith, Chair of the Flathead Basin Commission called it during a meeting last week.
On April 15, Montana’s full response to the invasive mussels begins statewide with more than 30 inspection stations, decontamination stations for boats leaving Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs and a broad outreach and education effort to help ensure people recreating on Montana’s waterways are practicing clean, drain and dry techniques at all times.
The biggest changes will be seen by those recreationists at Tiber and Canyon Ferry. In March, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission approved rules requiring boaters on Canyon Ferry and Tiber reservoirs to launch and exit at designated boat ramps, unless they are officially certified as local boaters on those specific waters by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
While local boaters won’t be required to decontaminate their vessels with hot water each time they leave Tiber or Canyon Ferry – they’ll still be required to stop at an inspection station where they’ll be expedited through after a brief interview. The program is designed to decrease volume at decontamination stations and allow a focus on boats traveling elsewhere.
Here’s the latest on the state bill to fight invasive mussel species in Montana’s waters . . .
The Senate Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved a bill to bolster the defense against aquatic invasive mussels, which were detected in Montana waters for the first time in the state’s history last fall.
However, a proposed amendment granting full rule-making authority to the Flathead Basin Commission to oversee a local inspection program was not successful.
The Senate Natural Resources Committee on April 7 reviewed House Bill 622, a measure introduced by four Northwest Montana legislators: Republicans Mike Cuffe, of Eureka; Bob Keenan, of Bigfork; Mark Noland, of Bigfork; and Al Olszewski, of Kalispell. All 12 members of the committee voted to advance the bill to the Senate, which is scheduled to consider it April 11.
Glacier Park has decided to allow small, hand-propelled watercraft on their lakes this season, as long as they are inspected for invasive mussels. Anything with a motor or big enough to require a trailer, is prohibited while the park further evaluates the danger posed by invasive mussel species.
Possibly in response to some points raised at last month’s Interlocal Meeting, “local users who live in more remote locations” (i.e., North Forkers) can get their equipment inspected at the “nearest ranger station.”
Here is the full press release, including a useful Q&A section. It’s followed by a link to a good summary article in the Hungry Horse News . . .
Date: March 16, 2017
Contact: Office of the Superintendent, 406-888-7901
WEST GLACIER, MT. – Glacier National Park announced today that hand-propelled, non-trailered watercraft including kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards will be permitted in the park with mandatory inspection beginning May 15 for Lake McDonald and the North Fork and June 1, 2017 for all remaining areas of the park. Last November, park waters were closed to all boating as a precaution after invasive species of non-native mussels were detected in two popular Montana reservoirs east of the park.
Hand-powered boat users will be required to have their craft certified mussel-free (“clean, drained, and dry”) by Glacier staff under a new inspection program with stations in four popular locations in the park. (Local users who live in more remote locations will be directed to the nearest ranger station for inspection.) This is a change from last season, when hand-propelled watercraft required visitors to complete an AIS-free self-certification form before launching into Glacier’s lakes.
Privately owned motorized and trailered watercraft brought into the park will not be allowed to operate on Glacier’s waters this summer while a comprehensive assessment of the threat from mussels is underway. Among other measures, this will include comprehensive testing of waters in the park and elsewhere in Montana for the presence of quagga and zebra mussels. These non-native mollusks reproduce quickly and can wreak havoc with lake environments, water quality, native wildlife, lake infrastructure, and cause significant economic harm to infested regions.