Scientist attaches price tag to aquatic foreign species invasion

RDOS directors get some numbers outlining potential costs to control an invasion of foreign aquatic species into the region’s waterways

Regional district directors are becoming increasingly concerned with the prospect of local waterways becoming infected with zebra and quagga mussels. Signs are being posted at boat ramps throughout the district warning boaters to beware of the issue

Regional district directors are becoming increasingly concerned with the prospect of local waterways becoming infected with zebra and quagga mussels. Signs are being posted at boat ramps throughout the district warning boaters to beware of the issue

 

Heather Larratt of Larratt Aquatic Consulting presented the regional district board with some sobering information regarding the potential economic impact of an invasion of  zebra and quagga mussels in the Okanagan – Similkameen.

Larratt’s presentation added to the board’s foundation of knowledge regarding the implications – both economically and environmentally – should these two invasive species gain a foothold in the valley’s watersheds. She told the board that zebra mussels could infect water bodies up to 100 metres in depth, clogging every known and unknown intake, including pumps and distribution systems.

“They can create blockages throughout the whole system,” she said, “ The cost to the Okanagan could be as high as $43,000,000 annually.”

Larratt insisted several times that she was a scientist, not an accountant, using examples of costs incurred in other watersheds to help back up her estimates.

“In the Great Lakes, it has cost five billion dollars over the last 10 years, just to manage the infestations,” she declared, “it has been estimated that an infestation in Lake Tahoe would cost 22 million dollars annually.”

Larratt broke down the damages in the following categories:

– Maintain water intakes: $375,000 annually, after  four million in prevention upgrades.

– Boating: four million dollars per year.

– Equipment fouling: one million annually

– Cost to maintain Bennett Bridge: $600,000 per year.

– Fisheries: annual costs 12 – 16 million dollars

– Real estate value: annual loss 10 million dollars

Tourism: 12 – 22 million dollars annually

Irrepairable eco-damage

Larratt described the solutions to the problem as difficult to enforce and onerous on boat owners. Extremely hot water is needed to wash boats off, and cleaning of the entire boat must be thorough.

“We need to get creative,” Larratt told the board in discussing solutions to stave off an invasion.

“We need to get everyone involved,” she added, noting that the recent fines introduced in B.C. for introducing invasive species was a good move. She also called for highway inspection stations to be established. Larratt recommended an immediate public sector information blitz, and some form of private sector involvement.

Area “D” Director Tom Siddon made the observation that many boat owners may lack the discipline to properly clean their boats.

“The federal government needs to be on side,” he said, adding that Canadian Border Services need to co-operate by providing an inspection point at border crossings.

Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells proposed that the board draft a letter to senior levels of government requesting increased action and support to address the issue of zebra – quagga mussels. The proposal became a motion which the board carried.