Fight with province over native mussels vs. invasive milfoil has divers heading into Okanagan lakes | Kelowna News | iNFOnews

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Fight with province over native mussels vs. invasive milfoil has divers heading into Okanagan lakes

The milfoil vs. mussels battle continues.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Norm Gaumont
September 04, 2019 - 5:30 PM

KELOWNA - More research is planned to determine what is more importance – weed-free beaches in the Okanagan or a native mussel.

That’s one of the outcomes of a meeting today, Sept. 4, between representatives of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and the provincial Ministry of Forests.

“Right now, they’re not looking at any changes in the provincial management directions,” Anna Warwick Sears, executive director of the water board told “However, they do want to talk about being a bit more inclusive about what that management direction is and they acknowledge the need to treat milfoil.”

Okanagan Lakes have been rototilled to combat Eurasian Milfoil for 30 to 40 years, Warwick Sears said. She intends to keep on doing that.

The province cut back on the areas that could be rototilled last winter after conducting surveys and finding Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussels. Those were listed as a species of interest under federal legislation.

The province had applied to have the mussels’ status upgraded to endangered but the federal government declined to do that last month.

After today’s meeting, the province said it would send divers in to inspect areas that were not rototilled this past winter. It’s unlikely that the milfoil has grown to the point where it has destroyed the mussel habitat, Warwick Sears said, but the research may support her contention that over the next two or three years that could happen.

Warwick Sears will meet with the province again around the end of the month to discuss the new research as she needs to know for sure what areas can be rototilled by Oct. 15 when the season starts.

She’s also lobbying both the federal and provincial governments to change regulations to allow rototilling on a permanent basis, rather than having to renew permits with the province that can be modified.

She’s also pointed out that any discussion of classifying a species as endangered must take into account the economic impact of such a decision – which will be huge for the Okanagan tourist industry if beaches are choked with milfoil, she said.

“We’re going to keep on working to keep our public beaches clean,” Warwick Sears said. “That’s our priority.”

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