U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced Monday an initiative to protect Montana from threats posed by invasive mussels.
Zinke praised the initiative, which is a collaboration with western governors and federal, state and Tribal agencies.
The economic and ecological threats have affected Montana. In October, water sampling came back positive for invasive mussel larvae in Tiber Reservoir and samples from Canyon Ferry, the Missouri River upstream from Townsend and the Milk River downstream from Nelson Reservoir come back suspect.
Invasive Quagga and zebra mussels clog hydroelectric facilities and irrigation systems, as well as damage aquatic ecosystems.
In the Great Lakes region, invasive mussels cause more than half a billion dollars of damage a year, and have dramatically changed the ecosystem. They pose a similar threat across the West -- particularly in the Columbia River Basin -- and in others including the Colorado River Basin.
The initiative protects areas in the West from the economic and ecological threats posed by the invasive species. It also includes more than 41 measures.
Other parts of the package include actions such as preventing and containing the spread of invasive mussels by inspecting and decontaminating recreational watercraft—one of the primary pathways of spread; enhancing sampling efforts and detection techniques to search for new introductions; and convening workshops to share best management practices on control strategies.
Invasive mussels also may disrupt ecosystems to the degree that they may cause new listings under the Endangered Species Act. In addition, mussel infestations threaten agriculture, navigation locks and the biodiversity that supports much of the Western outdoor recreation industry.
“Stopping the spread of invasive mussels and increasing our Federal-State-Tribal coordination are both critical priorities in order to ensure that we maintain hydro-power as a clean, reliable, cost-effective source of energy for the West and protect our outdoor tourism economies,” said Secretary Zinke. “Protecting our waterways and ecosystems is not a partisan issue and I’m glad to work with governors as the states, tribes and federal government combat the spread of invasive species. By working as an integrated team to prevent, contain and control invasive mussels, Americans will be able to experience the full benefits of hydro-power and enjoy their rivers, lakes and streams for recreation for years to come.”
Montana is one of 10 states participating in the initiative. Other states include Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
Agencies involved on the team include staff from Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Geological Survey, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management as well as tribes, state representatives, and staff from other departments including the Army Corps of Engineers Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the State Department.
The Interior’s bureaus collectively spend about $8 million a year on combating invasive mussels. In the current fiscal year, Interior is increasing that spending by $1 million through the Bureau of Reclamation.
In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs recently awarded $683,000 in project funding to tribes in the Pacific Northwest to help prevent the spread of the invasive species.
In Fiscal Year 2018, Interior requested Congress to provide Reclamation with another $4.5 million increase. Likewise, the Army Corps of Engineers previously has committed $5 million to this effort.
The whole package is available for viewing here.