Early season boat inspections have begun in the northwest corner of Montana in an effort to block aquatic invasive species.
Invaders like quagga and zebra mussels can impair lake ecosystems and rack up costly damages to irrigation, city water and hydroelectric systems.
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are now staffing the watercraft check station on U.S. Highway 93 in Ravalli seven days a week from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is also offering inspections at its Kalispell office on weekdays from 7 A.M. to 5 P.M.
All watercraft from paddleboards to motorboats are required to be inspected when coming into the state, crossing the Continental Divide or entering the Flathead Basin. Some areas, like Whitefish Lake and Glacier National Park, require additional inspections. Out-of-state boats with ballasts need to be decontaminated prior to launch.
New this year, out-of-state boaters must purchase a Vessel AIS Prevention Pass. The pass is $30 for motorized boats and $10 for rafts, kayaks, drift boats and sailboats.
Additional inspection and decontamination stations, along with hours of operation, will open in the next few weeks.
More information about state regulations and clean, drain, dry recommendations are available here.