In the fall of 2016, Montana had its first positive and suspect positive test for zebra mussels and quagga mussels in both Tiber Reservoir and Canyon Ferry. These mussels are quite prolific and can be devastating to waterways if a population is established. They also pose a huge risk for irrigated agriculture; they clog diversions, pivots and destroy canal systems. The 2017 Legislature responded to these risks by passing legislation that devised plans, programs, and funding to contain and prevent the spread of the two primary aquatic invasive species.
The established AIS program has proven to be successful thus far. Of the over 80,000 boat inspections the program performed this season, 14 mussel-fouled boats were intercepted out of the over 80,000 boat inspections performed across the state this summer. Thus far, no mussels have been detected in sampled water bodies. However, the funding mechanism for the AIS program sunsets in 2019. During the interim, the Environmental Quality Council has taken it upon themselves to draft a funding proposal for consideration in the 2019 Legislature.
As you may recall, finding the funds for this program was a last minute scramble in the 2017 Legislative Session. With the state short on cash, the hydroelectric community stepped up to the plate as a temporary source of funding. EQC has honored congressional leadership’s promise to remove hydro from the funding equation in the next session by introducing a bill that funds the program with an angler prevention pass, fees collected on non-motorized and motorized watercraft, a waterfowl stamp, and use of general fund dollars. Read the full text of LCaisb here. MFBF policy supports this proposal as it provides a more permanent source of funding for the program.