The Columbia-Shuswap Regional District is calling on the B.C. government to protect the province's waters against an invasive species of mussels.

Zebra and quagga mussels cost municipalities in Ontario and several U.S. states millions of dollars each year to control.

They aren't established in B.C., but earlier this year an infected power boat from Arizona was launched in Shuswap Lake.

Officials later determined the mussels on the boat were dead, but regional district area director Rhona Martin says the incident should serve as a wake-up call to the province.

"This mussel has shown itself in Ontario and I believe in other provinces as well, so it could be coming from different areas,” Martin said.

“We do have a lot of boats coming from out of province to enjoy our lakes here in B.C."

Hard to eradicate

Quagga mussels were introduced to Canada and the United States from Europe in the 1980s. Along with the closely related species zebra mussels, they now cost governments in eastern Canada and about 24 U.S. states millions of dollars every year.

Once established, the fingernail-sized freshwater mussels choke out native species and clog water intake pipes and machinery.

They are not native to B.C. and are difficult to eradicate. Live mussels can easily attach themselves to recreational vehicles, boats, boating equipment and fishing gear, and can be easily transferred from one body of water to another.

"The mussel can wreak all kinds of havoc, and our lake is so important to the economy and the lifestyle,” Martin said.

The Columbia-Shuswap Regional District is taking its concerns to the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities meetings this month.

Martin hopes the UBCM will pass a resolution asking the province to make boat inspections mandatory for any vessels coming from an area infected with mussels.

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