At Columbia River’s Doorstep, an Uneasy Lookout for Invasive Mussels

This small town marks the spot where Flathead Lake narrows into a river and resumes its long meander toward the Pacific. Its docks and ramps, now bare and icy, will soon hum with recreational boats. And that gives Erik Hanson cause for concern.

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Zebra mussels have attached to this young Higgins eye pearlymussel, an endangered species found in the Mississippi River. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)  

As the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Hanson stands at the forefront of an expensive, high-stakes effort to keep those boats from carrying invasive zebra and quagga mussels into the Columbia River’s headwaters.

The Columbia Basin, whose eastern edge runs through Montana, is now the last U.S. river system free of these mussels. In Hanson’s view, everyone in the 259,000-square-mile basin “should be extremely concerned about what Montana is doing” to stop them.

“Once they get into the Flathead Basin, there’s nothing that can be done to prevent them from infesting the rest of the Columbia River Basin.”  Click on the following paragraph to access the full story.

“The threat to hydropower infrastructure is huge,” he told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “All of the pipes and pumps of infrastructure would be subject to fouling by these encrusting mussels.”

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