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Boat infested with invasive mussels intercepted at Sylvan Lake

COLETTE DERWORIZ, CALGARY HERALD 

A boat overrun with invasive mussels was intercepted by Alberta’s watercraft inspectors before it made it into Sylvan Lake on the May long weekend.

Alberta inspectors found seven high risk boats out of 269 inspected over the May long weekend.

Alberta inspectors found seven high risk boats out of 269 inspected over the May long weekend.

It was discovered during one of the mandatory inspections, which started over the weekend on highways coming into Alberta and at lakes across the province.

“It was amazing,” said Cindy Sawchuk of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. “It’s scary, also.

“It had mussels on it.”

The owner, who had bought the boat in Ontario, was about to launch it at the Sunbreaker Cove launch at Sylvan Lake when the inspectors found the mussels.

He was fully cooperative and the boat will be decontaminated by the province’s specialized teams.

Sawchuk said it was one of 269 boats inspected on the May long weekend for the invasive mussels.

Sawchuk said they found a total of seven “high-risk” boats, which either came from a mussel-contaminated province or state, looked dirty or slimy or had standing water after being in an area with invasive mussels.

Three of those boats were given hot water washes to ensure they were not contaminated, she said.

Officials reminded Albertans to clean, drain and dry their boats to prevent the mussels from damaging Alberta’s aquatic ecosystems.

The invasive species — zebra and quagga mussels — are spreading throughout the western United States and Eastern Canada, making it as far west as Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba.

There’s no record of the non-native mussels in Alberta waterways, but several infested boats have been intercepted in the past couple of years.

It’s estimated it would cost about $75 million in annual losses if they were to establish themselves in Alberta’s lakes and rivers due to a drop in tourism dollars, as well as the potential to clog pipes and irrigation canals throughout the province.

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