Check stations open early as mussel-detection efforts expand

March 3, 2017 GMT

The Flathead Basin Commission on Friday opened a pair of watercraft inspection stations in Pablo and at Clearwater Junction, the first to begin operating as state officials plan an expanded effort to contain invasive mussel detections in Central Montana last fall.

The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced the openings in a press release Friday, adding that state officials will take over operations on the two boat-check sites from April 15 through the remainder of the season.

State officials with Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation are pushing for broader restrictions on boating activity after Montana’s first-ever detections of invasive mussel larvae in Tiber Reservoir and Canyon Ferry Reservoir last October.

“Boaters and water users in Montana can expect some significant changes in 2017 as we work diligently to protect our water bodies from aquatic invasive mussels, particularly west of the Continental Divide,” Eileen Ryce, the state fisheries division chief, stated in the release.


Last month, the wildlife department released proposed rules that would require inspections prior to launch for all watercraft entering Montana or crossing west over the state’s portion of the Continental Divide. The rules would also require watercraft leaving Canyon Ferry and Tiber to go through a decontamination process.

State lawmakers are currently considering a budget proposal from the department that calls for increasing spending on Montana’s mussel-prevention program from about 5.5 million. The proposal includes doubling the number of boat-check stations operating in the state.

Scientists and policymakers in the state have for years worried that zebra or quagga mussels could be transported by boat into the Treasure State - which until last year was one of the last in the country still free of the destructive invasive species.

Elsewhere in the West, the closely related bivalves have generated substantial damage to lakes and other water bodies where they have become established. Nearly impossible to eradicate, the mussels are known for multiplying prolifically, coating underwater surfaces, compromising fish habitat and recreation areas and costing millions of dollars in damage to dam, irrigation and municipal-water infrastructure.

Reporter Sam Wilson can be reached at 758-4407 or by email at