State and tribal officials announced Thursday that a boat carrying invasive zebra mussels slipped through two Montana inspection stations, but inspectors in Ravalli found the mussels and decontaminated the vessel.
The boat was on its way from Chicago to Washington state for repairs, and was unintentionally carrying adult zebra mussels, which can be devastating to lake systems and irrigation once established.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Liz Lodman says the boat passed through two checkpoints in the state.
"It first went through the inspection station at Wibaux on the state line. Inspectors there did not follow protocol and look at that boat like they are supposed to do."
The boat was given a receipt for the first inspection, but inspectors in Anaconda failed to follow protocol requiring them to thoroughly inspect the vessel regardless if it had been given the all-clear at another station.
The Ravalli station, which is a partnership between FWP and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes found the mussels.
"The mussels were dead. No indications that the mussels were alive. But still, the protocol is to check boats thoroughly. If you find mussels you remove them by washing them down.”
Lodman says FWP is looking at ways to improve training for inspectors to prevent similar issues in the future. Over 100,000 boats were inspected this year and fifteen vessels carrying invasive aquatic mussels have been detected.
Related: SubSurface: Resisting Montana's Underwater Invaders
Learn what happens if Montana fails to stop the coming invasion of zebra and quagga mussels threatening the state's water bodies.