Five politicians in B.C.’s Interior are demanding the federal government increase spending on protecting provincial waterways from invasive species.
In a joint letter published on Thursday, the Conservative MPs stated that inequitable funding and a lack of border inspections are leaving lakes and rivers across B.C. vulnerable to invasive mussels.
“These invasive species have devastated water bodies on both sides of the border, posing a significant threat to ecosystems, water infrastructure, and the tourism industry,” said the letter.
Currently, B.C. has six watercraft inspection stations: Four along the Alberta border (Dawson Creek, Mt. Robson, Golden, Olsen) and two along the U.S. border (Osyoos, Yahk).
The province also has two roving inspection crews (Lower Mainland, Penticton).
During summer, the province said 16,500 inspections had been completed as of Aug. 14, with crews interacting with around 31,000 people on the preventative step of cleaning, draining and drying their boats when moving between lakes.
“During the inspections, 124 watercraft were identified as high risk, 51 decontamination orders were issued, and 28 watercraft were given quarantine periods to meet the required drying time,” said the province, adding 62 decontaminations had been performed at the time.
Further, of the 16,500 inspections, 10 watercraft were confirmed to have adult invasive mussels. Seven were from Ontario with the remaining three from the U.S. (Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina).
The boats were destined for the Okanagan (6), Lower Mainland (2) and Thompson-Nicola region. One was an unconfirmed location.
In its letter to the federal government, the five MPs noted how Ottawa has, since 2019, “cut funding for (aquatic invasive species) prevention in B.C., the capacities and work of (B.C.’s invasive mussel defense program) have been severely reduced as the number of inspection stations declined by 50 per cent and inspectors working at the stations declined by 33 per cent.”
The letter also said the funding reductions from 2019 to 2023 correlated with:
- Reductions in operating hours of the remaining inspection stations
- A 68 per cent reduction in the total number of watercrafts inspected
- A 90 per cent reduction in identifications of high-risk watercraft
- A 54.5 per cent reduction in the number of mussel-fouled watercraft prevented from entering B.C.
“These reductions occurred during a period when the number of visitors to B.C., including those with watercraft, increased.”
“We must be proactive, not reactive, if we want to protect our Okanagan Lake, our water infrastructure, and tourism industry,” said Kelowna MP Tracy Gray.
“One infection puts them all at risk.”
MP Dan Albas said he shared a report of a local recreational boater who crossed the border six times without being inspected.
“This situation is unacceptable,” said Albas, “and we are demanding the federal government inspect every recreational boater crossing the Canada-U.S. border for (aquatic invasive species) across Western Canada.”
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