$1.8 million slated for mussel monitoring

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The omnibus spending bill that Congress passed last week includes funding for Montana’s fight against aquatic invasive species.

Within the $1.3 trillion bill, $5 million is appropriated for watercraft inspections and mussel monitoring in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. An additional $1 million will go to controlling the spread of flowering rush, an invasive water plant.

Montana will receive about $1.8 million of these funds, said Kate Wilson, invasive species outreach coordinator for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

Rep. Mike Cuffe, R-Eureka, told the Daily Inter Lake that the state has already received two yearly federal payments for mussel prevention from the Water Resources Development Act. The $1.8 million is about the same as the last payment.

The federal funds will be administered by the Army Corps of Engineers, and must be matched by the states. Wilson said that Montana is already providing that funding through hydropower and fishing fees.

Cuffe, one of the state legislature’s leaders on this issue, described the appropriation as a “big victory.”

“The big expense (of mussel control) is the manpower,” he said. “Most of it is the manpower of operating the boat check stations and doing the inspections.”

This boating season, a total of 32 inspection stations will be open around the state.

For more information on the locations of these stations and the regulations for boaters, visit cleandraindry.mt.gov.

Patrick Reilly can be reached at preilly@dailyinterlake.com, or at 758-4407.

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