Inspectors find invasive mussels on out-of-state boat

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A watercraft inspection station off Interstate 90 near Anaconda intercepted a boat Monday that was contaminated by aquatic invasive mussels.

It was the first boat this year to have been found with invasive mussels by watercraft inspectors.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks said the boat was being transported by a commercial hauler from the Great Lakes region to Bellingham, Washington.

The boat was last used on Lake Huron and had been in dry dock since October. Fish, Wildlife and Parks said mussels were found on the transom and trim tabs and were dried up and dead.

Inspectors decontaminated the boat before releasing it and it will not launch in Montana. Officials in Idaho and Washington were notified about the boat and plan to follow up and conduct additional inspections.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks reminded people transporting boats into Montana to have their watercraft inspected before launching and noted that boat owners are required to stop at all open watercraft inspection stations.

In 2018, inspection stations operated by Fish, Wildlife and Parks or partners inspected more than 109,000 watercraft and intercepted 16 out-of-state boats with mussels attached.

Partners included the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Blackfeet Nation, Missoula County and Garfield Conservation District.

Zebra and quagga mussels are invasive freshwater mussels discovered in the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s. Infestations can cause the extinction of many native mollusks, change the structure of food webs and contribute to the collapse of valuable sport fish populations.

Dense concentrations of mussels also can clog pipelines and water intakes and disrupt operations at hydroelectric power plants and municipal water plants.

Mussels can grow on boat hulls, engines and steering components.

In west-central Montana, boaters must stop at any station they pass and also seek out an inspection (even if they don’t pass a station) if they are bringing a boat over the Continental Divide into western Montana; launching in the Flathead Basin if the watercraft last launched outside the basin; or if they are bringing a boat into Montana from out-of-state and preparing to launch it for the first time this season.

Boaters requiring an inspection can find several stations already in operation for the season in western Montana, and more will open by the end of May. Open stations include one along Interstate 90 near Anaconda (west bound) that operates daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; near the town of Ravalli on the southern end of the Flathead Basin, in operation from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through mid-May and then 24 hours a day; and at Clearwater Junction in the Blackfoot Valley.

In Kalispell, the Fish, Wildlife and Parks inspection station operates seven days a week; weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The station is located at the agency’s Region 1 office, 490 N. Meridian Rd,, near the Flathead County Fairgrounds.

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