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Great Falls Tribune
The Associated Pres 11:13 a.m. MDT May 9, 2015
Boat stopped with invasive mussels in western Montana

KALISPELL (AP) – Inspectors have intercepted a boat with invasive mussels before it could reach Whitefish Lake.

The boat was intercepted Wednesday in Browning, where Blackfeet Nation — working with the Flathead Basin Commission — set up an inspection site earlier this year to keep invasive species out of the area.

Inspectors Jay Monroe and Rick Hoyt identified adult zebra mussels attached to the motor of a boat from Minnesota.

“The owner was extremely cooperative in terms of delaying his launch and undergoing a decontamination process,” Monroe said in a news release.

Another potentially fouled boat was intercepted by the Blackfeet tribe on Thursday. That boat from Oklahoma was bound for Lake Koocanusa.

Officials say the second boat had been decontaminated in Wyoming, but Montana inspectors still found dried material that mussels use to attach to hard surfaces.

Aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels have plagued bodies of water across the nation. While Montana and Wyoming remain free of zebra and quagga mussel infestation, more than two dozen other states are contaminated with the aquatic invaders.

Billy Little Plume, director of Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife, said the recent finds show the value of the boat inspection program.

“It was a great find on the part of our inspectors, and demonstrates the need for stations to be open early in the season,” Little Plume said.

Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld has proposed a $5,000 commitment to the Browning check station and about $30,000 in funding for local invasive species efforts in cooperation with the Whitefish Lake Institute, a nonprofit group that keeps a close eye on the Whitefish Lake watershed. The allocated money still must be approved by city council.

“Whitefish Lake is one of the biggest economic drivers in our community,” Muhlfeld said. “... The threat of AIS (aquatic invasive species) is real and has been devastating to economies throughout the United States.”