Boaters in the Flathead Basin may see some significant changes next season. A new set of regulations aimed at preventing the spread of invasive mussels next year are now being drafted.
The proposed regulations would require all boats to be inspected before they launch, set up a sticker for boats that only launch in Flathead and Swan Lakes, and establish annual fees to fund the program.
State lawmakers tasked the Flathead Aquatic Invasive Species Work Group with drafting regulations, which will then be considered by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission. The work group is made up of federal, tribal, state and local governments and a handful of non-profit organizations.
Caryn Miske, executive director of the Flathead Basin Commission, oversaw Monday’s work group meeting at the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station. She says the new regulations might be a little inconvenient, but there's a tradeoff.
"The tradeoff is that in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, when perhaps many other water bodies are fouled, we'll still have a clean Flathead lake, and a clean Flathead Basin. And I think the payoffs will speak for themselves," she says.
Miske says the group hopes to have an invasive species prevention plan and new regulations in place well before boating season starts next March.
"Our program may be a little bit more stringent," Miske says, "which is what the goal of this is, but whatever we do, this is in complementary fashion to what Fish, Wildlife and Parks does. So we’re not doing anything that would contradict their programmatic requirements."
Miske says the plan will be available for public review and comment but that timeline is not yet established.
The Flathead Aquatic Invasive Species Work Group plans to have their draft regulations ready for review by Fish, Wildlife and Park Commissioners’ October 12 meeting.