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Officials prepare for invasive species in Flathead Lake

Posted at 7:55 AM, Sep 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-14 10:08:13-04

SOMERS BAY – Wildlife officials in the Flathead are still hard at work getting ready in case an aquatic invader — such as an invasive mussel — is detected in Montana’s waters.

Officials hope it doesn’t get to this point and say by keeping your boats cleaned drained and dry you can help.

“Clean, drain, dry over and over and over you will hear us say and see it on the back of our trucks clean drain dry,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Fisheries Biologist Mike Hensler.

Statistics show that out of under 91,000 boat inspections performed since the stations opened in the state in March, 14 were positive.

It only takes one infested boat to contaminate an entire water body and Hensler FWP says if that were to happen a team which includes divers would be deployed to contain and decontaminate the water body.  But there are no guarantees.

“It’s not foolproof, “this is not a sure thing — going in and trying to find them and trying to poison them before they get out into the lake is never a sure thing. It’s a sure thing if you keep your boat free of those organisms,” Hensler said.

Boat Inspection
Anyone towing watercraft are required to stop every time they pass a FWP check station. (MTN News photo)

“We believe Flathead Lake is the crown jewel of the entire northwest. It’s the largest water body west of the Mississippi,” commented Germaine White with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

White told MTN News that Flathead Lake needs to be protected for future generations, “it’s a crown jewel and many of us feel a deep sense of responsibility to ensure it remains this precious resource not now but for the future.”

White says that having a plan in place she says is part of serving that sense of responsibility, “we have a plan in place and we want to be able to deploy it make sure this exercise is done to ensure there are any wrinkles.”

Despite signs directing boats to inspections stations some have launched without going through, something the Hensler finds frustrating.

“Not sure about the reasons but hopefully over time people are going to understand and hopefully it will happen before we get a tragedy in a Flathead Lake,” Hensler said. That they will understand its five minutes no more than that and you’re on your way.”

Anyone who notices someone bypassing a boat inspection is asked to report them by calling 1-800-847-6668.

-Nicole Miller reporting for MTN News