Dillon aquatic invasive species check station overwhelmed with traffic

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AIS inspection

After opening earlier than usual, staff at the Dillon watercraft inspection station already intercepted three mussel-fouled boats.

“The amount of boat traffic we were seeing at Dillon was like summertime traffic,” said AIS area supervisor John O’Bannon. “The coronavirus news caused Canadian boaters to rush for the border and that kept us really busy for the first two weeks.”

Last year the crew stopped three boats contaminated with mussels during the entire season. About 75 percent of the boats inspected so far this season have been registered in Canada.

Located south of Dillon on Interstate 15, the watercraft inspection station is staffed by crews of two seasonal Fish, Wildlife & Parks employees who check for aquatic invasive species on boats traveling north.

Normally this time of year, watercraft inspection stations see a few snowbird boaters returning home. Traffic increases in June when vacationers come to Montana towing recreational boats. However, 2020 has been anything but normal.

Anyone towing a boat into Montana is required to have the craft inspected before launching and must stop at all open watercraft inspection stations they encounter. FWP has implemented measures to protect inspectors and boat owners from COVID-19. Inspectors regularly clean and disinfect equipment and tools, specific tasks are assigned to each inspector so equipment isn’t shared, and inspectors maintain a 6-foot distance from the public during the inspection.

“We can conduct the inspection with no contact between the inspector and boat owner,” O’Bannon said. “But we need their assistance to do things like take off the boat cover and open compartments that must be examined.”

If an inspection can’t be completed, the boat is locked to the trailer to prevent it from launching and an inspection is arranged for another time. If the boater is destined for another state or province, the destination authority is notified to allow for a follow-up inspection or decontamination.

To find a watercraft inspection station and to learn more, go to CleanDrainDryMT.com or call the FWP Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau at 406-444-2440.

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