Mussels not endangered, water board hopeful to resume milfoil control

By  on August 23, 2019

Photo courtesy of OLWQS

Due to the presence of Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussels, rototilling milfoil is limited in some parts of Osoyoos Lake this year.

The Okangan Basin Water Board (OBWB) says it’s pleased with the federal government’s recent announcement that Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussels won’t be listed as endangered.

The considered endangered listing in the federal Species at Risk Act halted some of the OBWB’s rototilling of invasive milfoil weeds across the Okanagan, including in some spots of Osoyoos Lake.

Now the water board is renewing its call to be permitted to continue rototilling milfoil at public beaches and boating areas.

“We are very pleased with this decision. It allows more flexibility for us to manage invasive milfoil, keep the beaches clean, and protect water quality,” said Anna Warwick Sears, OBWB executive director.

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“Milfoil degrades the environment for all species, as well as the public’s access to the lake. Now we just need the province to renew our permit to operate in our historical treatment areas. We understand that this is within the discretion of the B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.”

In April the board put its concerns in a letter to the provincial and federal governments, asking for further study. This was followed by letters of support from several local governments, chambers of commerce, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, and others.

Now that the mussels are no longer under immediate consideration for an endangered listing, the OBWB hopes the provincial government will reconsider their prohibitions against milfoil rototilling.

“We are only asking to continue our operations in high-value public areas,” Sears said.

“The people need their beaches, and milfoil causes harm to a whole range of environmental values. It needs to be controlled.”