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Agencies revising Montana’s plan to respond to invasive mussels - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Agencies revising Montana’s plan to respond to invasive mussels

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Dozens of people took part in a “tabletop exercise" by gathering around a table and working on a draft plan to deal with a sudden discovery of mussels. Dozens of people took part in a “tabletop exercise" by gathering around a table and working on a draft plan to deal with a sudden discovery of mussels.
A "tabletop exersize" was help in Helena to develop a plan to fight invasive species. (MTN News photo) A "tabletop exersize" was help in Helena to develop a plan to fight invasive species. (MTN News photo)
Some restrictions on watercraft in Flathead Reservation waters are already in effect. (MTN News photo) Some restrictions on watercraft in Flathead Reservation waters are already in effect. (MTN News photo)
HELENA -

Representatives from state and federal agencies, as well as private industry, came together in Helena on Tuesday to discuss how they would respond if invasive mussels were found in a Montana lake.

Dozens of people took part in a “tabletop exercise" by gathering around a table and working on a draft plan to deal with a sudden discovery of mussels.

“If you try and write a plan after an event’s already happened, you’re already way behind the power curve,” said exercise coordinator Eddie Greiberis of Montana Disaster and Emergency Services.

The work comes after invasive mussel larvae were found in water samples from Tiber Reservoir last fall. Samples from Canyon Ferry Lake, the Missouri River upstream from Townsend and the Milk River downstream from Nelson Reservoir came back “suspect” for larvae, meaning one test was positive, but FWP wasn’t able to replicate it.

So far, no adult invasive mussels have been found in Montana.

Tuesday’s exercise included groups ranging from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Participants considered a hypothetical scenario: A fisherman finds a bucket at a Montana lake, with clear evidence of adult mussels. Then, they looked at the questions that would follow: Who would be in charge? How long would it take to get decontamination equipment? How would they deal with the other boaters on the lake?

“We’re looking for holes,” said Greiberis. “We’re looking for ways to improve the plan.”

Leaders hope any mussel infestation would be caught before it became too serious. FWP is regularly testing the state’s waterways to try to catch any sign of invasive species.

Greiberis says this type of exercise is valuable because it gives people an opportunity to think about how they can work together – before any actual mussels are found.

“By having a tabletop exercise, just discussion-based, we can work out all those bugs right now,” he said.

Greiberis says the agencies will take what they learned from the exercise and make improvements to the draft plan. Eventually, they could put together a full-scale, real-world drill to test their response capacities.

Officials say that no matter what steps they take, boaters will remain the first line of defense against invasive mussels. Thoroughly cleaning, draining and drying a boat after it’s been in the water is the best way to prevent mussels from spreading.

RELATED: CSKT vows to use every tool available to keep invasive mussels out of Flathead Basin

RELATED: New tool coming to fight invasive mussels in Montana

RELATED: CSKT issues emergency watercraft rules

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