More boat inspectors needed in Montana

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  • Tobias, a service dog, and his handler Ky Zimmerman search a boat for invasive mussels during a demonstration last week. Boat inspection stations in Glacier Park and the Flathead Valley will have their first mussel-sniffing dog unit this summer.

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    Ismay, a black Labrador trained to detect invasive mussels, stands where handler Deb Tirmenstein, placed mussels on a truck during a training session at the Gateway Community Mall. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake file)

  • Tobias, a service dog, and his handler Ky Zimmerman search a boat for invasive mussels during a demonstration last week. Boat inspection stations in Glacier Park and the Flathead Valley will have their first mussel-sniffing dog unit this summer.

  • 1

    Ismay, a black Labrador trained to detect invasive mussels, stands where handler Deb Tirmenstein, placed mussels on a truck during a training session at the Gateway Community Mall. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake file)

As the boating season gets underway, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks needs more staff for its boat inspection and decontamination stations.

The agency and its partners plan to operate 32 of these stations around the state this year. Some of them are already open. By checking boats for zebra and quagga mussels and the standing water that can hold their larvae, and disinfecting at-risk vessels, these workers are Montana’s main line of defense against aquatic invasive species.

State officials say that more of these workers are needed east of the Continental Divide, including at Tiber Reservoir.

The fall 2016 discovery of mussel larvae, called veligers, in Tiber triggered a massive effort to keep boaters from carrying them farther west. It’s currently guarded by two boat inspection and decontamination stations.

To run these stations, Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Greg Lemon said that “we’ll probably need a minimum of 24 staff members plus two on call ... it takes a minimum of eight people to run a full decontamination station from dawn to dusk.”

Speaking with the Daily Inter Lake last week, he said that “we’ve got eight people that are returning to Tiber” from last boating season, and “we’ve got eight new people, and so we’re still hiring from those open positions.”

Canyon Ferry Reservoir near Helena is “suspected” to have the mussels. Lemon said the stations there will need about 35 staffers. Last week, he said 27 employees were returning from last season and three more had been hired.

Montana is also currently recruiting for inspection stations at Dillon, Lincoln, Billings, Fort Peck, Nashua and the Tongue River.

The position pays $13.02 per hour. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and be willing to work outdoors while standing and crouching for extended periods of time, often in remote locations and inclement weather.

Camping overnight for several days may also be involved. The position runs through summer, with a mandatory training session in April.

To view opportunities and start an application, visit statecareers.mt.gov, go to “click here” under the “Career Sections” heading, and run a keyword search for “AIS watercraft inspector.”

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

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