Boating season got off to a worrying start in May when zebra mussels were discovered on a boat at Sylvan Lake Sunbreaker’s Cove.
Though it appears that is as close as Central Alberta came to seeing the unwanted invasive species introduced into area lakes.
Alberta Environment and Parks spokesperson Charity Wallace said zebra or quagga mussels — a similar threat— were found on 10 boats so far this season. But all were caught at four border crossings into the province where mandatory inspections have been in place.
“In Central Alberta, specifically, it’s just been the one find,” said Wallace. “We’ve been catching them before they get any further in.”
Roving inspection teams have been holding regular information sessions and checks at provincial boat launches all summer and have not found any problems. Roving crews have been targeting Sylvan, Gull, Buffalo, Buck, Pine and Pigeon Lakes.
It’s a reassuring sign that the province’s stepped-up vigilance for invasive species seems to be working.
“Every step we take is a positive step and we haven’t found any in the waters yet.
“There’s always the threat of something coming in. We do the best we can at the inspection stations before they get in close to a lake.”
Besides boat inspections, the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency and Alberta Agriculture have been testing water bodies for mussels and a plant invasive species known as Eurasian watermilfoil.
So far, they have all been coming up clean.
Quagga and zebra mussels move from lake to lake by attaching themselves to boats and other recreational equipment. Quagga mussels found in the Colorado River system in the U.S. are of particular concern because it is a popular destination for Alberta snowbirds. Zebra mussels were discovered in Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba in October 2013. The mussels have been a huge problem in the Great Lakes where they have clogged up water intake pipes and done millions of dollars in damage.