May 23, 2014 5:27 pm
Updated: May 23, 2014 5:28 pm

Curtain seals off Winnipeg Beach Harbour for zebra mussel experiment

Crews extend curtain across harbour at Winnipeg Beach for zebra mussel treatment on Friday May 23, 2014

Lauren McNabb

WINNIPEG BEACH, Man. — Winnipeg Beach Harbour was sealed off Friday by a “curtain” in preparation for approximately 68,000 litres of potash to be dumped into the lake in a first-of-its-kind experiment to eradicate zebra mussels.

The harbour is the first of four on Lake Winnipeg to receive the potash treatment. An Ontario firm, ASI Group, has been brought in to run the curtain, which will be staffed 24 hours a day, over the next two to three days. The potash will be put in the harbour on Saturday.

ASI used a similar method on a quarry in Virginia eight years ago and said it was successful.

“Zebra Mussels never came back,” said Dan Butts, the consulting engineer.

This is the first time it’s been tried on a lake.

“This is certainly unique.”

The curtain can be raised and lowered to accommodate commercial fisherman who hope to be on the lake as soon as the ice clears. The potash will only be dumped into the harbours.

Zebra mussels cover a float, left, while Michelle Wheatley from Fisheries and Oceans also holds a clean one for comparison.

Lauren McNabb / Global News

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While zebra mussels have been spotted in Lake Winnipeg, they’re not currently a major problem as they are in the Great Lakes, where they litter beaches, cling to boats and have clogged storm and water drains.

Michelle Wheatley, a science director from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, used two floats to illustrate how quickly zebra mussels spread.

“The one on the left is how bare the one on the right used to be,” she said. “It took only five months to be completely covered.”

Rob Nedotiafko, provincial co-ordinator of the Lake Winnipeg zebra mussel treatment project, said they need to strike now before the invasive species becomes a problem.

The treatment will cost an estimated $500,000.

Kris Isfeld’s family has been commercial on the lake for more than 100 years. While he’s satisfied the process won’t impede fishing, he believes it’s a huge waste of money.

“The zebra mussels aren’t just in the harbour,” he said.

RELATED: Eyes on Manitoba as it tries to blast zebra mussels in unique experiment

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