Zebra mussels are one of North America’s most dangerous invasive species and Flin Flon city council is taking steps to prevent their introduction into local waters.
Ron Black and Chris Smith presented a delegation to council during the July 21 meeting, asking the council to work with other jurisdictions to bring a resolution to the next Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) meeting.
The duo represent Citizens for Protecting Our Northern Waters and have been presenting to councils across northern Manitoba. Earlier July 21, they presented to The Pas’ council.
Smith worked as a biologist across northern Canada before retiring in Cranberry Portage.
“By far, this is probably the most important work that I believe I have ever been involved with,” said Smith during his presentation.
Zebra mussels are an invasive mollusk that causes damage to infrastructure and ecosystems by spreading in the millions across lake bottoms and in outlet pipes. The invasive species originated in Asia and uses a hair-like filament to attach themselves to rocks, pipes and even other mollusks.
Smith said zebra mussel infestations in Ontario cost municipalities an average of $350,000 per year to deal with.
The mussel’s microscopic larvae can only be transported upstream by human activity, as they lack the ability to propel themselves through a water system. Boaters are required to drain, dry and clean their equipment when moving between water systems. A failure to do so can result in fines of hundreds of dollars to the boater.
After establishing a population, there is no way to remove zebra mussels.
Smith said potential zebra mussel prevention programs are being held up by a lack of communication between government agencies, and a lack of awareness in the general public.
“We need stronger programs. We need coordination between governments and we need collaboration through partnerships,” Smith said.
“We need your help.”
Mayor Cal Huntley said council would work on crafting a resolution to take to AMM right away, calling a potential resolution an “easy sell” to the association.
“We have a severe problem here that's going to cost a lot of money in the near future,” he said.
“We’ll ask the Association of Manitoba Municipalities and want to lobby the provincial government and probably the federal government as well.”
The day after the presentation, the Saskatchewan provincial government announced it had detected zebra mussels inside a boat during a routine inspection at the Manitoba border.
There are inspection stations set up in Manitoba (including in The Pas) that boaters are required to stop in.
Zebra mussels have not been found in lakes or rivers near Flin Flon.
Huntley opened the meeting by formally declaring Aug. 14 - 23 Flin Flon Pride week. Properly socially distanced events organized by the Flin Flon Pride committee will take place throughout the week, including a parade.
The City had to decline a request from the Manitoba Metis Federation to fly a flag inside city limits. Huntley said the only flags the MMF have are 18 feet by 9 feet - too big for the city to fly.
“We just didn't have the infrastructure to say it wouldn't be dragging on the ground,” Huntley said.
“We told them if they have smaller flags, we can certainly be able to make it work.”