CSKT: Invasive Mussel threat "very serious" - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

CSKT: Invasive Mussel threat "very serious"

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Tribal resource managers say an emergency declaration over the spread of invasive mussels into the Flathead Basin will help them focus efforts to keep the invaders out.

The declaration approved by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council gives tribal agencies the order to develop action plans to deal with the mussel invasion. That's become an increasing concern over the past month since mussel larvae were found in a North Central Montana reservoir.

Although tribal biologists have been tracking the mussel problem for years, the declaration gives specific authority to tackle the threat.

"Well, it does. I mean this emergency declaration, in essence, creates an internal Incident Command Team made up of different tribal professionals and individuals," said CSKT Natural Resources Department Head Rich Janssen. "We take this very serious, and our job is to best protect our many waters on the reservation, including the south half of Flathead Lake.'

In addition to sampling, Janssen says the CSKT Natural Resources Department will be in regular contact with other tribal programs, as well as their counterparts with the Montana Mussel Response Team to develop specific response plans. That's likely to include expanded boat inspections and other possible restrictions.

"We needed to take this action, really, to focus our efforts," Janssen said.  "And we've been watching the zebra and quagga mussels spread closer to our lands and now that they are in Montana we take this matter very serious."

The tribe estimates the mussels could have a $90 million impact on the Flathead economy if they get a foothold, causing the local fishery to collapse, make swimming and drinking water unusable, ruining wastewater treatment, irrigation and hydropower operations.

While a state report this week suggests the mussels are just limited to the Tiber Reservoir, the tribe won't let its guard down.

"That press release was good news. But we still have a hundred seventeen samples that we collected here on Flathead Lake with the Yellow Bay Biological Station that need to be analyzed. And once we find the results of those analysis we'll know more at that time." 

Janssen says while the tribe and other agencies develop those response plans, boaters should continue educating themselves on the "clean, inspect and dry" approach to help safeguard local lakes and rivers next season.

?- information from Nicole Miller included in this report.

RELATED: Flathead Biological Station looks for new ways to fight invasive species

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