Out-of-province boat ban gaining support in the Thompson-Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Out-of-province boat ban gaining support in the Thompson-Okanagan

A B.C. government invasive mussel inspection station is seen in this undated file photo.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/OBWB-OkWaterWise

Calls for a moratorium on out-of-province boats in BC to protect local waterways from invasive and destructive mussels appears to be gaining traction.

The moratorium proposed by the Okanagan Basin Water Board would be put in place until a proper plan to prevent zebra and quagga mussels from coming into the province is put in place by all tiers of government.

The call is supported by the Central Okanagan Regional District, Vernon, Lake Country, Peachland and Summerland.

“We also received support from the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association for a short-term moratorium on out-of-province boats and watercraft to spring 2024," James Littley, Deputy Administrator of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, says

The support from the tourism association might come as a surprise, but the association believes a pause now could benefit the region in the future.

“The concern around the invasive mussels is very real, we have been watching the situation and we have seen the damage that it has done to lakes in other parts of our country, and now, with its proximity to us, we think that it’s important for us to take a pause,” Ellen Walker-Matthews, Chief Executive Officer of the Association, says. “At this point in the year, it won’t be that detrimental to tourism so it’s important that we take that time to understand what the invasive mussel is, the effects of it, and to make sure we increase the watercraft inspections as we go into the season next year.”

“Sometimes you have to make some very difficult decisions in the short term to make sure that you have something that is preserved forever. The worst thing that could happen is that this invasive mussel gets into our waterways,” Walker-Matthews said, when asked if the association would extend their support of the moratorium should the proper actions not be put in place before the Spring of 2024. “Our number one priority is that we protect our waterways.”

Despite local support, the water board has yet to get much from higher levels of government, but that won’t stop it.

“We are forming a new working group with a wide range of stakeholders to look at how to enhance protection for the Okanagan, and to consider preparing for a future with invasive mussels if the provincial inspection stations fail,” Littley says. “In a few months, we will also be publishing a guide for how to assess and prepare for anyone with infrastructure in the water. This could be municipalities, private water suppliers, dam operators, farmers, or even people with household water intakes.”

The demand for this moratorium comes with a demand for increased and consistent watercraft inspections after the discovery of zebra mussels in bordering Idaho.

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