July 2021 Kicker Editorial from MP Mel Arnold:
With the arrival of summer, the waters of our lakes and rivers are getting busier as boaters and other water users from near and afar take to the water for much-needed downtime. It goes without saying that we are truly blessed with the waters of our region and as we dive into summer, I hope we can all be mindful of what we can do to help protect our waters.
Last fall, populations of invasive clams were confirmed to be in Shuswap Lake. While these clams may not represent as severe a threat to local ecology and economies as other invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels (ZQM), the arrival of these invasive mussels and potential arrivals of others are serious matters deserving our attention and action.
Since last fall’s discovery, I have connected with Indigenous communities, concerned landowners, local MLAs and the Government of BC to discuss the discovery of this invasive mollusk and how the province is responding. I have also continued my advocacy at the federal level for increased resources from Ottawa to protect BC’s waters. There needs to be a strong response to the invasive clams now in Shuswap Lake and we must prevent the damage that ZQM would wreak on our region and province.
The Okanagan Basin Water Board has estimated that an introduction of ZQM could cost the Okanagan region alone $43 million annually in lost revenue (e.g. tourism), added maintenance of aquatic infrastructure and irreparable ecological damage. If ZQM get into Lake Okanagan, the likelihood of other nearby lakes like the Shuswap being infested would increase significantly as would the damages and annual costs that local communities and ecologies would have to bear.
ZQM reproduce very quickly and have ruined many beaches in North America by littering them with razor-sharp shells. Private infrastructure like docks and public infrastructure like water intakes and effluent outfalls are quickly rendered inoperable by ZQM colonies.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure, but only if the preventative steps are taken. When we look at the level of federal resources supporting the fight against aquatic invasive species (AIS) in BC, the Trudeau government is failing to take the threat seriously similar to their lackadaisical response to COVID-19 that allowed the virus to enter Canada.
As I continue to press the federal government for resources to expand inspection and treatment sites on BC’s borders, we can all support another means of prevention- public education. I would encourage all residents of the North Okanagan- Shuswap to visit dontmoveamussel.ca to learn how you can help spread the message and not invasive mussels.
We have so much to be grateful for here in the North Okanagan- Shuswap and I hope you will join me in promoting prevention of AIS and ZQM to protect our waters for the future!
I wish you and yours a safe and happy summer!
Mel Arnold, MP North Okanagan-Shuswap