Invasive mussel response shifts from reaction to management

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter
After confirming the presence of invasive mussels last winter, the State of Montana is using January to lay the groundwork for getting its newest resident under control. According to Barb Beck, the Joint Mussel Response Implementation Team Leader, Montana’s approach is shifting from reaction to management.

In a Jan. 19 press release, the state announced the governor-created response team would be transitioning from emergency response to long-term implementation. Beck explained the change in simpler terms.

“It’s not just a title change,” she said. “The governor signed a natural resource order, and that’s what the original team was under. That expired Jan. 18.”

By that point, the team had already finished its original task, according to Beck: it had been created to confirm the presence of mussels and then figure out how the state should handle the situation. On Jan. 16, the Montana Mussel Response team did just that, releasing a set of recommendations that were presented to state legislators.

“The team developed a series of recommendations on how we should all be responding to the discovery of mussel larvae,” Beck said. “We presented [the recommendations] to various legislative committees who were asking, ‘What is this, how do we respond and how is the legislature involved?’”

The recommendations, available on the State of Montana’s Mussel Response site, beef up watercraft inspection and sampling efforts, and introduce two decontamination stations at both Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs, the two water bodies with confirmed mussel larvae. The recommendations also strengthen the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Aquatic Invasive Species program and the state’s invasive species program.

Beck said the infrastructure for these proposed changes is provided for in the recommendations. They call for the creation of 10 expert task forces, each focused on a different specialty related to invasive species. Beck estimated the creation of these teams, including their equipment and facilities, would take up to two years.

“At some point it will eventually transfer under the fisheries division in Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks,” she said, explaining the switch would make the department’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program into a bureau.

“We’re going to hire a new bureau chief responsible for aquatic invasive species,” she said. “We’re actually going to beef up that program to handle this.”

At least one thing about the state’s response will not change, however.

“One thing that will remain in place is an interagency oversight group,” Beck said.

The original Montana Mussel Response team included cost in their recommendations, and presented a two-year total for putting everything in place: roughly $10.2 million.

“When we went and presented to the legislature, we presented these recommendations with a price,’ she said, “and with a commitment from the directors of DNRC and FWP to get federal agencies to fund half of that.”

Beck explained this would leave Montana with $5.1 million, adding the two state agencies are already looking for funding sources.


Expert task forces
So what will the State of Montana need to manage invasive mussels in the future? According to the Montana Mussel Response team’s recommendations, it will need 10 expert task forces, including:

1. Implementation, logistics and support

2, Inspection stations

3. Monitoring

4. Decontamination

5. Hiring

6. Training

7. Rule making

8. Information and outreach

9. Enforcement and support

10. Invasive species program coordination

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