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Aquatic invasive species training sessions held in Manitoba

Everyone needs to be aware and help protect our water bodies

Last month, fire trucks were temporarily removed from the Sandy Lake Fire Hall and replaced with a motorboat, Jet Ski, canoe, kayak and water-related equipment, such as paddles, anchors, fishing rods and bait buckets.

Organized by the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve (RMBR) and Friends of Sandy Lake, with the assistance of the Municipality of Harrison Park, this switch-out enabled Candace Parks, aquatic invasive species (AIS) specialist with Manitoba Sustainable Development to present a volunteer AIS inspector training session.

The 30-plus people who attended learned from a simulation where a fishing boat, Jet Ski, canoe and water-related equipment typically found on board watercraft, were “spiked” with AIS, including water potentially loaded with zebra mussel veligers (microscopic babies).

“This was done,” said Parks, “to show how it’s critical to pay close attention to the smallest detail — as a ‘juvenile’ zebra mussel can be the size of a grain of sand, so it’s not only important to ‘look’ but also to ‘feel’ surfaces while checking for AIS.”

“The level of attendance indicates that the general public are beginning to realize that, as citizens, everyone can and should play a crucial role in protecting our rivers, lakes and streams from AIS — to preserve our outdoor lifestyles and highly valuable tourism resources,” said Jim Irwin, chair of RMBR.

Parks also spoke about the additional requirements that are needed when leaving a high-risk “Control Zone,” or already-invaded water like Lake Winnipeg or the Red River. Currently, there are six AIS Control Zones in the province.

“The bottom line is,” said Parks, “despite the fact that the issue is often in the news these days, we need more AIS awareness.”

An information session was also held at Ditch Lake last month, and attended by 15 people. The event was organized by cottagers, who invited Parks and Don Huisman of Erickson to present, so they could learn how to be part of the solution to the zebra mussel infestation problem.

David Cairns, president of the Gull Lake Basin Management Board lent his expertise at both sessions, explaining that the Municipality of Alexander and St. Clements has allowed a locked gate and volunteer inspectors to control access to their lake. Gull Lake is located 80 km west of Lake Winnipeg.

Both sessions stressed that “clean, drain, dry and dispose,” are the requirements for all water users to incorporate when using Manitoba’s water bodies, to protect against AIS contamination.

Decontamination of AIS-infected watercraft is an entirely different matter. When watercraft are used in a designated Control Zone, in addition to “clean, drain, dry and dispose,” they must also be decontaminated. This is where water, low-pressure heated to 60 C, is used to clean inside and outside the watercraft, ensuring that any AIS that may have been in or on it is killed prior to the watercraft being launched into another water body.

The Province of Manitoba operates six AIS Watercraft Inspection Stations to enable watercraft to be inspected, and if necessary, decontaminated when travelling west, out of Control Zones.

When the stations are open, all watercraft being transported — including non-motorized canoes and paddleboards — must report to be inspected. The stations are open for six hours a day, except for the Selkirk Station which is open seven hours a day, and all are open Thursday through Monday. A schedule is posted at www.manitoba.ca/stopAIS.

Right now, there is no intention of providing additional AIS Watercraft Inspection Stations in southwestern Manitoba. So, the RMBR, led by Irwin and Valerie Pankratz, is hosting a meeting of the RMBR municipalities affected, to discuss the establishment of a regional decontamination station, which could be mutually supported by the municipalities.

“The rationale for this station,” said Irwin, “is to provide an owner possessed of a possibly contaminated watercraft, with a reasonable option — so they do not have to drive for hours back to an inspection station in central Manitoba, such as is located in Headingley, for example.

“This will definitely help when watercraft coming out of designated Control Zones pass the stations before and after they are open, ending up in our area uninspected. And, these boats are in addition to the ‘drive-by’ watercraft that have been recorded by the attendants of existing AIS inspection stations, which amounted to about 24 per cent in 2017,” he said.

To weigh in or become involved, contact Irwin at 204-848-7354 or at [email protected].

To learn more go to ‘Spread the Word Not the Mussels’ on the RMBR website.

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