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Environment & Science

Montana FWP Lifts Restrictions At Canyon Ferry

A scubadiver holds a rock covered in quagga mussels on Lake Michigan in 2017.
Nicky Ouellet
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
A scubadiver holds a rock covered in quagga mussels on Lake Michigan in 2017.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will lift mandatory boat launch restrictions and decontaminations at Canyon Ferry Reservoir this season following three years of no new invasive mussel detections. 

Three years after first being listed as a suspect waterbody for zebra and quagga mussels, Canyon Ferry will no longer require boats to be inspected as they exit the lake.

FWP this season will use a single inspection station at the Silos boat ramp at Canyon Ferry and a roving crew for stations around the Missouri River system.

Fish Wildlife and Parks Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau Chief Thomas Woolf says redirecting staff and equipment could help prevent future invasive species from entering Montana.

“The resources that were formerly used in Canyon Ferry would be pushed out to the state borders so we will strengthen our hours of operation for border stations and also extend the seasons of operation," Woolf said.

The agency received 23 public written comments on its proposal to delist Canyon Ferry as a mussel-infested waterbody, with most boaters agreeing that while mussels are a serious threat, the state should focus on out-of-state boats where they originate.

Regional Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) guidelines allow the state to delist a lake as suspect after three years of no new detections. Restrictions on Tiber Reservoir, where mussel larvae were found in 2016, will remain in place for two more years barring new detections.

Since 2016, FWP has tripled the amount of samples gathered with plankton tow nets, detection dogs, divers and substrates with no further evidence of mussel larvae found.

Still, Flathead Lake Biological Station Research Coordinator Phil Matson says it’s too soon to say the threat is gone.

“We still have to be vigilant all the time even though we’re not finding them. It just takes one boat. It takes two mussels but one boat to infest our waters and they can slip through easily during midnight, they pass by inspection stations that happen to be closed for the season or for the hours," Matson said. 

More than 10,000 boats were inspected in Montana last year with inspectors blocking 16 boats with mussel samples before they could enter the water.

The stations at Canyon Ferry are set to open on May 16.