HELENA – It was a warm Mother’s Day weekend at Canyon Ferry Lake, and many people spent the holiday out on the water.
Those boaters had to come through watercraft inspection stations, set up by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
On Saturday, FWP opened up stations at Canyon Ferry and Tiber Reservoir for the first time in 2019.
This is the third year of increased requirements for boaters on those bodies of water, after tests in 2016 showed Tiber was “positive” for invasive mussel larvae and Canyon Ferry was “suspect.”
“We’ve done a lot of advertising and promotion of the ‘Clean, Drain, Dry’ message in Montana and the rules and regulations people need to follow,” said FWP spokesman Greg Lemon.
“I think we’re doing good; we can always do better, and we’re always working to try to make sure we get to everybody,” he added.
Boaters are required to stop every time they pass an inspection station. Inspectors check that they have cleaned their watercraft, drained off any standing water and dried the wet areas where mussel larvae and other invasive species can survive.
Any boats coming off Canyon Ferry or Tiber has to be washed off with high-pressure, 140-degree water – hot enough to kill any larvae. The only exception is for those who sign up for the “Certified Boater” program and who are not taking their boat to another body of water.
Lemon said FWP isn’t making major changes to the inspection program this year, but they have made smaller adjustments.
“We’ve adjusted inspection station locations and hours to try to be more efficient, to catch more watercraft, to be more available to people,” he said.
Lemon said they are also working to expand their testing activities in other bodies of water around Montana.
More inspection stations will open up in the coming weeks, including two more at Canyon Ferry and one more at Tiber.
A station on U.S. Highway 12 west of Helena will open next week, to inspect boats crossing west over the Continental Divide.
Lemon said the most important thing is that boaters understand the importance of preventing the spread of invasive species – and what they can do to help.
“Beyond the regulations – the mentality, the habit of just every boater, every watercraft user, every time: clean, drain, dry,” he said.
You can find more information about inspection stations and other efforts to address aquatic invasive species in Montana at cleandraindry.mt.gov .
-Jonathon Ambarian reporting for MTN News