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Biologists check Flathead Lake for invasive mussels - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Biologists check Flathead Lake for invasive mussels

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Nicole Miller reports the testing comes amid worries about boaters ignoring the need for inspections. Nicole Miller reports the testing comes amid worries about boaters ignoring the need for inspections.
FLATHEAD LAKE -

Anyone that has ever been on Flathead Lake knows it's special, but it's also at the head waters of the entire Columbia Basin which is the last mussel-free basin in the United States.

But for leaders of the Flathead Lake Biological Station and members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe the lake is not only special -- it's sacred.

"From a tribal perspective, we're willing to do whatever we need to do to protect this lake not just for the tribes but for all people living here and for all future generations," said CSKT Aquatic Biologist Georgia Smies.

So on this cool and cloudy day specialists from the Flathead Lake Biological Station and others from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe set out to test the lake for any signs of the mussels.

So far there are no signs, and they are working to keep it that way.

It will take about two weeks for results to come back. Meanwhile, lake officials say with the boating season upon us the bigger concern is that boaters traveling from infested waters will bypass inspection stations.

"So anyone coming up from the Missoula area coming north up into the lake has to stop by there, whether or not they're fishing or just recreation boating," said FLBS Research specialist Phil Matson. "If they have a boat they have to stop."

Soon these still waters will welcome visitors all over the region. But members of the station and tribe vow to do all they can to keep the dreaded mussels from entering the lake.

Mussel infestation is most commonly spread by boat and it only takes one contaminated boat to spread the infestation. That's why the inspections are critical. It will typically take about 20 minutes to get through them but if your boat needs to be de-contaminated it could take up to two hours.

If you see someone bypass a boat inspection you can report them by calling 1-800-847-6668 (1-800-TIP-MONT).

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