More inspection stations for zebra mussels coming to Manitoba

Boaters risk spreading aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels, which were first discovered in Lake Winnipeg in 2013.

As spring and summer approach, so does boating season in Manitoba, and the provincial government is hoping that inspection stations set up around the province will help ensure invasive species like zebra mussels don’t continue to spread and infest waterways and damage critical infrastructure.

With recent warmer weather and with summer on the horizon, the provincial government says they know more boaters will be out on Manitoba’s rivers and lakes but also that those boats can spread aquatic invasive species (AIS) like zebra mussels, which were first discovered in Lake Winnipeg in the fall of 2013, and have since spread to other bodies of water in this province including Lake Manitoba and the Nelson River.

Zebra mussels are harmful to Manitoba waterways in a number of ways, as they can reproduce rapidly and deplete native fish populations, and they can be sharp and harmful when they wash up on shores or beaches.

Adult female zebra mussels are known to reproduce at a rapid rate, as they can typically produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs in each reproductive cycle, and over 1 million eggs in a single year.

The mussels have also been a major and costly concern for Manitoba Hydro recently, as the Crown corporation recently announced it would spend about $2 million, to try and prevent damage to six of their generating stations along the Nelson River where they say the infestation of the mussels has been growing and spreading.

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According to Hydro, the mussels are a significant threat to those stations because they can clog intake pipes and cause operations to slow down, or possibly shut down altogether, and they pose a safety hazard.

“Without treatment, zebra mussels pose a significant risk to the safe operation of generating stations,” Manitoba Hydro said on its website.

“Zebra mussels can grow inside pipes, reducing or blocking water flow to critical systems for unit cooling and fire protection.”

With the threat to waterways and to infrastructure, the province is now asking boaters to “do their part” to stop the spread of zebra mussels, by cleaning, draining, and drying watercraft after use in any body of water in Manitoba.

There are also designated AIS control zones in Manitoba and in those areas watercraft must be decontaminated after use, the province added.

“Maintaining the quality and quantity of our province’s precious water resources is critical to the environmental, economic and social well-being of Manitoba, now and into the future,” Natural Resources and Northern Development Minister Greg Nesbitt said in a news release.

“We encourage Manitobans to be vigilant to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.”

The province said that inspections stations are now set up to “enforce inspections” of watercraft in Headingley, Selkirk, Eriksdale, The Pas and Wabowden.

The province added that additional inspection stations in Grand Rapids, Ste. Rose du Lac, and Minnedosa will open in the coming weeks. The province said the Ste. Rose du Lac and Minnedosa stations are new this year and were put in place to deal with “growing zebra mussel threats” in western Manitoba.

“Anyone transporting motorized or non-motorized watercraft over land must stop at all open watercraft inspection stations along their route,” Nesbitt said.

“Watercraft inspection stations help watercraft users comply with AIS requirements.”

This story was originally published in The Winnipeg SunIt is republished under a Creative Commons license as part of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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