A 15 percent increase in watercraft traffic has resulted in a new record of mussel fouled boats discovered

Char-Koosta News 

Once again, the Columbia River Basin has dodged the summer zebra and quagga mussel infestation bullet, mainly due the diligence of the watercraft inspectors at the numerous inspection stations in Montana, and despite the fact that summer boating traffic is up about 15 percent. Much of that increase has been attributed to water recreationalists seeking an escape from COVID-19 infested areas for the — until recently — safety of low numbers of cases in Montana. Sadly, the state is now an area that is dealing with dramatic spikes in COVID-19 cases.

The final counts for the 2020 summer boating season and the more than 132,000 inspections conducted this summer were nearly 20,000 more than last summer. Thirty-four mussel fouled watercraft were discovered and that is a new record. The lion’s share — 17 — of the of the fouled watercraft came from the Midwest Great Lakes states. 

The Great Lakes, in the 1980s, were the first area to be infested with zebra and quagga mussels. They were transported in ballast of commercial ships from the Middle East. Since then the dime-sized mussels have infested every water basin in America except the Columbia River Basin, that includes the Kootenai, Flathead, Clarkfork and Missouri river basins in Montana, and the Snake River Basin in Idaho. 

Mussels have been found in the Red River Basin in South Dakota waterways and that further emphasizes the importance of a fine-toothed watercraft inspection station strategy. 

Once an area is infested with mussels, they are impossible to eradicate, consequently the best offence against infestation is defense. In Montana that is its 33 inspection stations strategically located throughout state highways. A zebra and quagga mussel infestation would result in a worst-case scenario of $234 million cost to the Montana recreation, agriculture, infrastructure and government sectors revenue economy, and billions to the Columbia River Basin economy as a whole.

All the inspections stations have been closed for a few weeks now except for the Ravalli station which closed this week.

The top inspections stations that found mussels on incoming watercraft were Anaconda with 11, and Wibaux and Dillon with six each. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes managed Thompson Falls and Ravalli inspection stations didn’t find any mussel fouled watercraft in any of its 17,485 and 4,498 inspections respectively.

This summer approximately 300 warnings and nearly 300 citations were issued to watercraft owners that failed to stop at the inspection stations. The citation fine for failing to stop for inspections is $85. 

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation is considering raising the fine to further drive home the point that driving by stations has consequences. Any changes in the AIS regulations such as penalty increases would have to be presented to the Montana Legislature as a bill to considered this session that begins in January.

On the Flathead Reservation the Ravalli station has a tribal game warden on-site to go after watercraft owners that fail to stop for inspections; it also relies on CSKT Law Enforcement officers, local municipal police, Lake County Sheriff Office deputies, and Montana Highway Patrol officers when needed. The off-reservation Thompson Falls station relies on local law enforcement officers to chase down those that fail to stop for inspections.  

As of Monday, Oct. 12, the Montana AIS inspection stations have conducted more than 132,000 inspections that found 20,433 high-risk watercraft and 34 mussel fouled watercraft. 

The high-risk watercraft emanate from areas known to contain zebra and/or quagga mussels or are watercraft with bilges.

Top inspection numbers of sites conducted near Flathead Lake

  • Clearwater Junction has conducted 34,141 inspections that included 2,884 high risk watercraft
  • Ravalli has conducted 17,485 inspections that included 3,350 high risk watercraft
  • Anaconda has conducted 11,310 inspections that included 3,123 high risk watercraft
  • Troy has conducted 6,981 inspections that included 475 high risk watercraft
  • St. Regis has conducted 6,387 inspections that included 293 high risk watercraft
  • Thompson Falls has conducted 4,498 inspections that included 146 high risk watercraft
  • Browning has conducted 3,238 inspections that included 640 high risk watercraft
  • Sula has conducted 1,695 inspections that included 232 high risk watercraft
  • Kalispell has conducted 664 inspections that included 85 high risk watercraft

Inspections by state

Idaho tops the out-of-state inspections with 7,177, followed by Washington with 3,402 Wyoming 1,572, North Dakota 1,431, Utah 1,230, Minnesota 1,182, Colorado 1,003, Oregon 984 and California 923. 

The remaining inspections were conducted of on Montana watercraft.

AIS Fouled Boats 2020

Inspection Station - Wibaux I-94 Westbound 

Date: 9/30/2020

Water Last Launched: New York State

State of Origin: New York

 

Inspection Station - Anaconda

Date: 9/24/2020

Water Last Launched: Unknown 

State of Origin: New York

 

Inspection Station - Wibaux I-94 Westbound 

Date: 9/18/2020

Water Last Launched: Big Cormorant Lake

State of Origin: Minnesota

 

Inspection Station - Wibaux I-94 Westbound 

Date: 9/10/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Missaukee 

State of Origin: Michigan 

Inspection Station - Anaconda

Date: 8/8/2020

Water Last Launched: Unknown 

State of Origin: Maryland

 

Inspection Station - Nashua

Date: 8/30/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Cadillac 

State of Origin: Michigan

 

Inspection Station - Wibaux I-94 Westbound 

Date: 7/25/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Michigan 

State of Origin: Wisconsin

 

Inspection Station - Anaconda

Date: 7/24/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Powell

State of Origin: Arizona

 

Inspection Station - Anaconda

Date: 7/20/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Michigan 

State of Origin: Wisconsin

Inspection Station - Wibaux I-94 Westbound 

Date: 7/2/2020

Water Last Launched: Minnesota

State of Origin: Minnesota

 

Inspection Station - Wibaux I-94 Westbound 

Date: 7/10/2020

Water Last Launched: Wisconsin

State of Origin: Wisconsin

 

Inspection Station - Nashua

Date: 6/7/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Michigan

State of Origin: Wisconsin

 

Inspection Station - Anaconda

Date: 6/5/2020

Water Last Launched: Illinois

State of Origin: Illinois

 

Inspection Station - Nashua

Date: 6/28/2020

Water Last Launched: Minnesota

State of Origin: Minnesota

 

Inspection Station - Anaconda

Date: 6/20/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Michigan

State of Origin: Michigan

 

Inspection Station - Hardin 

Date: 6/19/2020

Water Last Launched: Mille Lacs Lake

State of Origin: Minnesota

 

Inspection Station - Anaconda

Date: 6/15/2020

Water Last Launched: Unknown

State of Origin: New York

 

Inspection Station - Anaconda

Date: 6/12/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Winnebago

State of Origin: Wisconsin

 

Inspection Station - Dillon 

Date: 5/30/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Mohave

State of Origin: Arizona

 

Inspection Station - Flowing Wells 

Date: 5/28/2020

Water Last Launched: Minnesota

State of Origin: Minnesota

 

Inspection Station - Anaconda

Date: 5/24/2020

Water Last Launched: Mississippi River

State of Origin: Illinois 

 

Inspection Station - Dillon 

Date: 5/21/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Havasu

State of Origin: Arizona

 

Inspection Station - Hardin 

Date: 5/20/2020

Water Last Launched: Geneva Lake

State of Origin: Wisconsin

 

Inspection Station - Anaconda

Date: 5/2/2020

Water Last Launched: Mississippi River 

State of Origin: Iowa

 

Inspection Station - Anaconda

Date: 5/1/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Havasu

State of Origin: Arizona

 

Inspection Station - Dillon 

Date: 4/29/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Havasu

State of Origin: Arizona

 

Inspection Station - Dillon 

Date: 4/22/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Pleasant

State of Origin: Arizona

 

Inspection Station - Dillon 

Date: 3/24/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Havasu

State of Origin: Arizona

Inspection Station - Dillon 

Date: 3/21/2020

Water Last Launched: Lake Havasu

State of Origin: Arizona

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