Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!

February 23, 2017

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are threatening our watershed now more than ever. The detection of invasive mussels in Tiber Reservoir last October dropped the possibility of a massively destabilized Clark Fork Watershed at our back door. What exactly do these new threats mean for our watershed?

What are they? 

Aquatic invasive species are nonnative, nuisance plants, snails, or mussels that typically enter waterways via unintended human introduction.

Why are they a problem?

Zebra mussel shells along the Lake Winnebago shoreline in Wisconsin. Credit: Mark Hoffman

Aquatic invasive species can cause widespread ecological havoc and economic harm — for example, scientists estimate that over 180 invasive species in the Great Lakes cost more than $200 million annually in lost revenue and prevention strategies. Last fall aquatic invasive mussel larvae were discovered in samples from Tiber Reservoir. Samples from Canyon Ferry Reservoir and a couple more places in the Missouri River watershed were also suspect for mussel larvae. Invasive mussels are now at the doorstep of the Clark Fork Watershed.

Threats include:

  • Crashing fish populations
  • Loss of native flora and fauna
  • Decline in water quality
  • Increase in the frequency of toxic algae blooms
  • Reductions in local tourism, recreation, and property values
  • Beaches covered with sharp shells
  • Increased costs for cleaning and maintaining water system pipes used in domestic, municipal, agricultural, and hydroelectric facilities
  • Increases in monthly electricity and water bills due to substantially more annual maintenance costs for utility companies

What can you do?

The Pacific Northwest is the only region of the United States that doesn’t have established populations of quagga or zebra mussels. Let’s keep it that way!

CLEAN. Completely remove all mud, water, and vegetation before leaving the access areas.

  • Inspect your boat, trailer, and all gear. Pay attention to crevices and hidden areas.
  • Remove all vegetation (by hand or sprayer).
  • Remove all mud (use a pressurized power sprayer, found at most do-it-yourself car washes).  The hot water kills organisms and the pressure removes mud and vegetation. No need to use chemicals or soap.
  • Dispose of debris in trash or on dry land away from water or ramp.

DRAIN. Drain all water from watercraft and equipment.

  • Drain or remove water from boat, bilge, live well, engine, internal compartments, and bait buckets by removing drain plugs before leaving the access area.

DRY. Aquatic invaders can survive only in water and wet areas.

  • Dry your watercraft and fishing equipment thoroughly; this will kill most invasive species.  The longer you keep your watercraft, trailer, waders, and other equipment outside in the hot sun between fishing trips, the better.

Speak up to protect our waters! See a suspicious-looking aquatic plant? A nonnative mussel? A boat coated in weeds? Call 1-800-TIP-MONT to report what you see on our lakes, rivers, and streams.


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