HELENA – On Friday, the watercraft inspection and decontamination station at the north end of Canyon Ferry Lake was quiet. But inspectors said that was certain to change, as the Labor Day weekend got underway.
“Any holiday weekend on Canyon Ferry Lake is bound to be busy, and if the weather cooperates, people take advantage of it the best they can,” said Ken Cottrell, lead inspector at the Canyon Ferry North station. “So we’re geared up for a real busy weekend.”
Cottrell also worked at an invasive species check station last summer. He said boaters are becoming more familiar with what the stations are there for.
“Last year was kind of an educational year,” he said. “This year, we’re finding that people are more appreciative and more willing to help us out.”
Leaders with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said they will inspect many more boats for invasive species this year than they did in 2017.
According to Liz Lodman Stine, who handles outreach and education for FWP’s Aquatic Invasive Species Division, check stations around the state inspected 86,090 watercraft last year. As of Friday, they had already checked 85,918 this year – before the Labor Day rush.
The state ramped up its response to aquatic invasive species starting in 2016, when water samples from Tiber Reservoir tested positive for invasive mussel larvae. Tests at Canyon Ferry showed “suspect” results.
Today, FWP operates about 30 inspection and decontamination stations, checking watercraft as they enter Montana, go to the west side of the Continental Divide or leave Tiber or Canyon Ferry. Mussels and other species can be carried in standing water, so the goal is to ensure boaters “clean, drain and dry” their vessels.
Any time someone carrying a watercraft – from a boat to a paddle board – passes an inspection station, they are required to stop, even if they have previously been inspected.
Lodman Stine said, so far this year, the inspection stations have stopped 13 boats carrying invasive mussels. She said all of them came into Montana from another state, and none were around Canyon Ferry or Tiber.
At places like the Canyon Ferry North station, inspectors will be hard at work through the Labor Day weekend, making sure it stays that way.
“We’ll make the inspection or information-gathering process as quick as possible and have you on your way,” said Cottrell.
Many of the stations, including Canyon Ferry North, are set to remain open through October.
You can find more information about inspection stations and Montana’s invasive species policies at cleandraindry.mt.gov.