Members of the Environmental Quality Council last month got a close-up view of the massive effort to thwart the invasion of aquatic mussels in the state.
The legislative panel toured a watercraft inspection station at Canyon Ferry Reservoir as part of its first meeting of the interim. Much attention last session focused on aquatic invasive species after the discovery last fall of invasive mussel larvae in Tiber Reservoir. Samples from Canyon Ferry Reservoir indicated larvae might be present there as well. Most often transported between waterbodies by attaching themselves to watercraft, mussels can damage boats, clog irrigation diversions and hydroelectric facilities, and degrade aquatic habitat.
The station at Canyon Ferry Reservoir is one of 35 in the state. All motorists hauling motorized or nonmotorized watercraft – including rafts, drift boats, canoes, and kayaks – must stop at inspection stations.
The Environmental Quality Council (EQC) is a bipartisan panel with 16 voting members, including 12 legislators and four members of the public.
At the June meeting, the first of the interim, the Council elected Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby, as its chair. Vice chair will be Rep. Bradley Hamlett, D-Cascade. The duo served in the same roles in 2009-10 when Vincent was in the House and Hamlett was in the Senate.
The EQC will tackle a wide variety of issues over the interim. Senate Joint Resolution No. 5 directs the EQC to study the effects of reduced coal mining and usage of coal. Senate Joint Resolution No. 9 is a study of chronic wasting disease, which afflicts deer, elk, and moose.
The Council also will devote time to invasive species policy, state parks, metal mining, natural resource data collection, and several issues related to forest fires.
Hamlett and Rep. Kerry White, R-Bozeman, will also serve on a subcommittee examining the future of state-supported labs on the MSU campus in Bozeman, including the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, the Wool Lab, the Wildlife Lab, and the Seed Lab. The 2017 Legislature mandated the study with the passage of House Bill No. 661.
Representatives assigned to the EQC are Willis Curdy, D-Missoula; Janet Ellis, D-Helena; Steve Gunderson, R-Libby; Hamlett; Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton; and White. Senators are Mike Lang, R-Malta; Mike Phillips, D-Bozeman; JP Pomnichowski, D-Bozeman; Cary Smith, R-Billings; Vincent; and Gene Vuckovich, D-Anaconda. Public members are Scott Aspenlieder, Billings; John Brenden, Scobey; Kylie Paul, Missoula; and Matt Vincent, Butte. Patrick Holmes represents the governor.
Archived video of the meeting is available at http://leg.mt.gov and broadcast on Television Montana (TVMT.) Check local channel listings to find TVMT. For more information contact Joe Kolman, committee staff.