WHEREAS current provincial legislation, the Weed Control Act and the Fisheries (Alberta) Act, contain some limited provisions in relation to the enforcement for control/elimination of Aquatic Invasive Species; and
WHEREAS Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development estimates that a dreissenid mussel (Quagga and Zebra Mussels) invasion into Alberta water bodies could have a detrimental $75 million annual impact on the Alberta economy; and
WHEREAS the economic impact targets many aspects of the economy including but not limited to drinking water systems, water diversion intakes, water management structures and power generation; and
WHEREAS the annual cost of preventing the invasion of this species is much less than the annual cost of mitigating the damages after an invasion; and
WHEREAS these mussels are listed as prohibited species in the Fisheries (Alberta) Act but current provincial measures are not sufficient to ensure the species does not invade provincial water bodies; and
WHEREAS as far as has been determined, Aquatic Invasive Species such as Zebra Mussels and Quagga Mussels are not present within water bodies located within the Province of Alberta but are migrating closer and have been found as close as Lake Winnipeg increasing the urgency to address this situation; and
WHEREAS due to the serious irreparable damage that can be caused to water bodies(particularly lakes and reservoirs) if Zebra Mussels or Quagga Mussels do enter the water bodies, action should be taken to adopt legislation to assist with enforcement for control/elimination of Aquatic Invasive Species;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to enact/amend legislation and/or regulations, including the Fisheries (Alberta) Act, to include prohibited species and encompass zero tolerance, mandatory inspections and the necessary enforcement authority for Aquatic Invasive Species, including dreissenid mussels, to ensure these species do not invade Alberta;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to take preventative measures by working with all levels of government to further develop the provincial Aquatic Invasive Species program to include:
Aquatic Invasive Species include dreissenid mussels (both Zebra Mussels and Quagga Mussels), which are non-native species that are native to Eastern Europe. It is thought that they were introduced into North America on ocean ships through the St. Lawrence Seaway. They are spreading throughout parts of the United States and eastern Canada with Zebra Mussels found in Lake Winnipeg in October 2013. Over the past few years, concerns have been raised in relation to the irreparable damage that may be caused to Alberta’s water bodies if aquatic invasive species such as Zebra Mussels or Quagga Mussels were to infiltrate these water bodies. These aquatic invasive species can be transferred from other water bodies on boats that have travelled in water bodies that are already infested.
These mussels filter organisms out of water, altering the food chain and in turn threatening existing native species. They also cling on to any solid object, accumulating to the point that they clog up municipal water intake pipes and irrigation infrastructure. If introduced into Alberta it is estimated that the financial impact to mitigate damages will be $75 million annually including $20,839,921 to drinking water systems.
These mussels are listed as prohibited species in the Fisheries (Alberta) Act but diligence in enforcement is lacking. When inspection stations have been set up, the requirement for the inspections is voluntary with many Canadians opting not to have their boats inspected. On the other hand, Americans at Alberta inspection stops are more likely to agree to the inspections as they are mandatory in some states. In fact, inspections in the United States in 2013 alerted the province that seven boats contaminated with the mussels were headed for lakes in Alberta.
Alberta tested for the mussels in some water bodies in 2013 and have carried out pilot boat inspections at certain border locations. They intend to continue with this program in 2014. This is not enough, however, as inspections are voluntary as noted earlier. A more diligent approach backed by strong legislation is required along with funding for 76 inspection stations.
Currently in Alberta, the enforcement of AIS falls into two categories based on the two Acts associated with AIS:
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) representatives are working to develop an AIS program that will contain elements for monitoring, rapid response, inspections, education and outreach, and policy and legislation. Funding education campaigns is important in preventing these mussels from entering Alberta. Boaters need to be aware of the risks that these mussels pose and the steps that they can take to ensure they are not contaminating our lakes.
Spending money on these precautionary methods is much cheaper on an annual basis than having to enter the mitigation phase, and with these mussels already in Manitoba the province must act now. Support from municipalities by way of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties would encourage provincial representatives to favorably consider the proposed legislative amendments that will result from the development of this program.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development: Alberta is pursuing legislation that will amend the Fisheries (Alberta) Act to provide a more robust aquatic invasive species prevention program. These amendments will address the concerns and suggestions in the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties resolution, including the ability to conduct mandatory inspections.
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) is leading a provincewide aquatic invasive species program that includes education and outreach, monitoring, rapid response planning, watercraft inspections, and policy and legislation. Continued funding of the provincial Aquatic Invasive Species program remains a priority in order to ensure continuation of a comprehensive prevention initiative that includes an awareness campaign and watercraft inspection.
Justice and Solictor General: ESRD developed and now leads delivery of the program to control the spread of aquatic invasive species. For that reason, Justice and Solicitor General defers to ESRD to provide accurate information about the ministry’s program. Justice and Solicitor General’s Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Branch and Parks Enforcement Branch will continue to assist ESRD with monitoring and enforcement efforts.
Transportation: ESRD and Alberta Justice and Solicitor General are the ministries best suited to address this issue. Alberta Transportation currently has no marine regulations on recreational boats entering the province.
The Government of Alberta’s response to the resolution and actions to combat aquatic invasive species are encouraging and will have an important impact on the spread of aquatic invasive species. However, it is unclear whether a ‘zero tolerance’ approach has been adopted by the Government of Alberta as is specified in the resolution.
Alberta Environment and Parks’ 2015-18 Business Plan identifies the development of a framework to address invasive species in Alberta. The AAMDC looks forward to the development of this framework, and will advocate for a zero-tolerance policy for aquatic invasive species within it. Further, the AAMDC is working with municipal associations in neighbouring provinces to ensure efforts are being taken across provincial borders to address the spread of aquatic invasive species. These collaborative efforts resulted in Saskatchewan municipal associations jointly advocacting to the Government of Saskatchewan to address the spread of aquatic invasive species across provincial borders
This resolution is deemed Accepted in Principle until a zero tolerance approach has been adopted by the Government of Alberta. The AAMDC will monitor the ongoing efforts to halt the movement of aquatic invasive species