MTPR

Aquatic Invasive Species

This sign from Minnesota gives a glimpse into one possible future if invasive mussels become established in Montana.
Nicky Ouellet

This is "SubSurface: Resisting Montana’s Underwater Invaders." I’m Nicky Ouellet, and in our first episode I’m taking us to the Midwest, to lakes where people have been fighting invasive zebra and quagga mussels for decades, to hear, see and smell what could become Montana’s mussel-encrusted future if a full-blown infestation happens here. These stories are reporting from the future.

Do you have a question about Montana's underwater invaders? Want to know more about how zebra and quagga mussels spread, how Montana is confronting the problem, or how states like Wisconsin and Minnesota are dealing with them? Leave your questions in the comment section here, or contact us on Facebook or Twitter. We'll do our best to answer them, and may include your question in a future episode.

That green and brown gunk is a mix of algae, plankton and bits of genetic material that hold the answer to whether Flathead Lake has mussels in it. One sample comes from 9 meters deep, the other from the surface.
Nicky Ouellet

As state legislators return to Helena next week to try to balance the state budget, one of the programs facing deep cuts is tasked with protecting rivers and lakes in the Flathead Basin from invasive mussels. They may not be able to continue that work.

The Flathead Basin Commission was supposed to oversee a new pilot program next summer that would shore up protections against zebra and quagga mussels, invasive species that have caused millions of dollars of damage in infested states and changed lake ecosystems in ways we still don’t really understand.

Montana was invaded last summer. Not by land, not by air, but by water. A microscopic alien showed up in water samples from the Tiber Reservoir, opening the door to a wide range of potentially devastating impacts for Montana's fisheries, outdoor enthusiasts and industries.

What happens if Montana fails to stop the coming invasion of zebra and quagga mussels threatening the state's water bodies? MTPR's Nicky Ouellet looks into Montana's future (or one possible future) to see how the invasive mussels changed the Great Lakes region, and examines Montana's efforts to detect and prevent their spread.

Corin Cates-Carney

Update: This is an extended version of the story we posted Thursday, Oct. 12, the original text is at the bottom of this post.

Along a rocky shoreline at Canyon Ferry Reservoir Thursday, if you listened closely, you could hear the sound of a dog sniffing, using its nose to search for invasive mussels threatening to overrun Montana waters.

Hilo, a three year old black lab, isn’t finding any evidence of the adult quagga or zebra mussels he’s been sent to search for along the shoreline.

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