Province should make exemption to milfoil rototilling ban to fight invasive species: report - InfoNews

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Province should make exemption to milfoil rototilling ban to fight invasive species: report

If milfoil is left unchecked, this is what lakes will look like. This shot was taken near the north end of Osoyoos Lake in 2010
Image Credit: Submitted by Okanagan Basin Water Board
June 18, 2019 - 4:41 PM

A new Parliamentary committee report suggests that an exemption should be put in place to allow methods of aquatic invasive species control currently banned on some lakes in the Okanagan.

The recommendation is one of nine put forward in the report by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, that asks for an exemption to be made to allow rototilling to continue in the regions as part of the fight against Eurasian water milfoil.

"It shows that at the federal level what we are doing is good and rational," Okanagan Basin Water Board executive director Anna Warwick Sears told "I was really pleased to have (the recommendation) in there because I strongly believe controlling the milfoil is for the public good."

The Okanagan Basin Water Board director said rototilling is by far the best of two methods of getting rid of Eurasian water milfoil, but has now been restricted in areas where the endangered Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel has been found. Warwick Sears said currently her organization is only rototilling between three and five percent of Okanagan Lake since the province brought in the strict controls.

Warwick Sears said if they stopped rototilling and the milfoil weeds grew back, those weeds would have a "very negative effect" on the protected Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel.

The report follows an early report released in the spring which criticized the federal government's lack of action on the file.

The report also contains several recommendations that suggest the federal government take immediate action on the file and establish systems for tracking and coordinating aquatic invasive species programs across jurisdictions.

Warwick Sears who gave evidence to the committee that produced the report Aquatic Invasive Species: A National Priority, said she'd like to see the federal government act quickly on the recommendations.

"The federal government has a unique position of creating more uniform standards and ideally having provinces to work together," Warwick Sears said. "It's a terrific way to keep the conversation going but we need more than conversation, we need action."

MP for North Okanagan-Shuswap Mel Arnold, who sat on the committee, called for the federal government to do more in the fight against invasive species.

"The ecological and economic harms of invasive species like zebra mussels are undisputed, no one is debating the devastation they cause, so our focus must be the timely implementation of measures proven to work," Arnold said in a media release.

According to the report, the Okanagan Basin Water Board receive funding from municipal governments of $850,000 a year. The estimated cost to manage an infestation of invasive mussels in the Okanagan would cost $43 million.

For more information on invasive species and what you can do to stop them spreading go here.

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