POLSON, Mont. – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are considering rules that would allow authorities to temporarily take possession of boats at high risk of causing devastating damage from zebra and quagga mussels. They could also temporarily lock boats to their trailers to prevent launching to ensure enough drying time to kill any mussels on board.
Invasive mussels can damage beaches, clog boat motors and dams, drive up utility rates, and harm fish and wildlife. They can spread by attaching themselves to boats, which carry them to other regions.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks Program Coordinator Tom Boos said the new rules are similar to steps that other states, including Idaho, have already taken.
Boos said taking temporary possession of a boat or making it difficult to launch one would likely be rare.
“It’s a complicated issue,” Boos said. “Decontamination is not 100 percent effective – the only thing that is is drying time.”
Larger vessels like houseboats pose a bigger problem because they are harder to wash out. Letting them dry after being decontaminated is the best way to ensure at-risk boats won’t introduce mussels into Montana.
Boos said boats could be held at county impound facilities or locked to their trailers until they were deemed safe if they pose any risk coming from other states known to be infected.