Thompson Smith, chair of the Flathead Basin Commission, has an excellent op-ed in the Flathead Beacon discussing the importance of aggressive efforts to block further spread of invasive mussels throughout Montana’s waters . . .
In early November, state officials announced the first documented presence of zebra and quagga mussels in Montana, after positive tests at sites in the Missouri River system.
For the Flathead Basin, these devastating invasive species are now at our doorstep: just a few hours away for people hauling boats from Tiber Reservoir.
In coming days, our ability to protect Montana’s remaining non-infested waters will be determined by the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) legislation and rule-making now being finalized in Helena. What is emerging appears to be a far more robust AIS program, and it should be passed. But the devil is in the details. Experts point to a number of deficiencies that must be addressed.
First, it is important to understand that if invasive mussels do become established here, they would ravage both the aquatic environment and the economy. Tiny, razor-sharp shells would coat and clog every hard surface — rocks, boats, pipes, docks, dams. They could ultimately cause the collapse of native fisheries, a vital cultural resource and linchpin of the recreation industry. They would wreak havoc with irrigation systems, power facilities, and municipal water supply and treatment.
Once established, invasive mussels are virtually impossible to remove. The whole game is prevention.