KELOWNA (August 19, 2019) – The federal government announced yesterday that it will not be reclassifying the Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel as endangered under the Species At Risk Act. The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) and Kelowna MLAs are now calling on the provincial ministry of Forestry, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations to once again review its restrictions over rototilling.
“This recent announcement by the federal government confirms that the NDP proceeded with damaging restrictive policies before having all the facts,” says Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster. “It is time for John Horgan and the NDP to stop monopolizing control over the Okanagan’s ecosystem, cooperate with the federal government, and allow the OBWB to regulate the Okanagan’s water systems as it has for over 30 years.”
Following the federal government’s announcement that further study and consultation into the native Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel will be conducted in the future, the OBWB released a series of recommendations. These recommendations included a public consultation to analyze the impact that classifying mussels under the Species At Risk Act will have on communities, as well as requesting a permanent exemption by the province for the OBWB’s milfoil control activities. This would allow the agency to continue to safely preserve public beach and boating areas without provincial interference.
“Tourism is a vital industry for the Okanagan,” says Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick. “Every day that the NDP allows milfoil to spread across the Okanagan’s beaches, the government threatens the livelihoods of thousands of residents. If the province renews the OBWB’s permit to operate in historical treatment areas, we can prevent the invasive milfoil from destroying both the Okanagan’s ecosystem and economy.”
A provincially commissioned report in 1991 found that termination of rototilling would lead to a projected economic decline of $85 million in annual tourism revenue, $360 million in lost property value, and over 1,700 job losses in the Okanagan alone. Those numbers will have increased dramatically by 2019.