HELENA — Two boats encrusted with invasive aquatic mussels were intercepted at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks watercraft inspection stations over Memorial Day weekend.
The first boat was intercepted when it stopped on May 26 at the watercraft inspection station in Wibaux, FWP said in a news release. The boat arrived from the Great Lakes region destined for West Yellowstone.
The inspection station crew discovered adult mussels encrusted on the boat and hot washed the boat on-site and FWP enforcement staff secured the vessel until a complete decontamination could be completed.
A complete decontamination of the vessel occurred in Bozeman on June 2.
A commercial hauler was transporting the second contaminated boat and failed to stop at the Hardin watercraft inspection station on May 27, the news release says.
Inspection station staff called 1-800 TIP MONT and Montana Highway Patrol was alerted. The hauler was pulled over and made to return to the inspection station.
FWP was not aware if any citations resulted from failing to stop at the station.
“The main thing for us was to get the boat to the check station,” said FWP spokesman Greg Lemon. “The take hope point is that these rules are for all boats, even those being commercially hauled on a semi.”
The boat, which was headed for British Columbia, was encrusted with adult mussels and hot water washed on-site. Canadian authorities were alerted and followed up with the boat at the border.
Rules new for the boating season dictate all out-of-state watercraft and all watercraft crossing the Continental Divide into the Columbia River basin must be inspected prior to launching.
All watercraft being transported must also stop at roadside inspection stations.
“The interception of these boats over the weekend reinforces the importance of our efforts around Montana,” FWP’s aquatic invasive species bureau chief Tom Woolf, said in a statement. “We see a lot of out of state watercraft coming from areas of the country where mussels and other AIS are present. Our inspection stations are the first line of defense to protect Montana’s waters.”
State agencies made a number of changes to their aquatic invasive species programs in response to the discovery last fall of aquatic invasive mussel larvae in water samples from Tiber Reservoir. A sample from Canyon Ferry Reservoir also was found to be suspect for the mussel larvae.
The number of inspection stations were doubled around the state, and mandatory watercraft decontamination stations were instituted at Tiber and Canyon Ferry and significantly increased testing for invasives.
Lemon says the public’s response has been generally positive to the bolstered program and inspections.
“By and large people are happy to comply with the rules and like the idea of keeping Montana’s waters clean,” he said.
Staff has faced challenges due to many out-of-state boaters not knowing the new mandatory inspection rules, Lemon said.
Another issue has been educating the public about the newly-required Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass, he said. With a recent funding bill signed by the governor, all resident and nonresident anglers, including those who already purchased a fishing license, must purchase the pass. The cost is $2 for residents and $15 for nonresidents.