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Sask. Resort Community Association seeking tougher zebra mussel regulations

WATCH ABOVE: Provincial groups working to keep zebra and quagga mussels out of Saskatchewan.

A Saskatchewan group is calling on the provincial government to implement stronger measures to keep zebra mussels and quagga mussels at bay.

The destructive invasive species have swept westward across Canada since they first surfaced in the 1980s, though Saskatchewan waters remain mussel-free.

READ MORE: New Sask. highway signs warn of dangers of aquatic invasive species

“We’re asking the government to put in a comprehensive, well thought-out program of border inspection, which could be done for a couple million a year,” said Lynne Saas, executive director of the Provincial Association of Resort Communities of Saskatchewan.

In 2016, provincial officials inspected 776 watercraft and completed 25 decontaminations.

Alberta officials inspected 21,000 vessels at their eastern border, finding eleven boats contaminated with mussels.

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All of them travelled from Ontario, across Saskatchewan, according to the Alberta government.

Manitoba, North Dakota and Montana have all confirmed infestations of invasive mussels.

Creating inspection points at every entry into Saskatchewan from other jurisdictions wouldn’t be affordable, according to Ron Hlasny, senior aquatic ecologist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment.

“None of them operate 24-7, and it’s pretty tough to cover any province around its whole core,” Hlasny said, adding there are more than 20 highways and around 40 grid roads that run into the province.

READ MORE: Alberta, BC, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon agree to fight zebra mussels

The provincial government urges people to clean, drain and dry their boats to avoid spreading mussels.

Both Lake Diefenbaker and the South Saskatchewan River are high risk waterways for mussel infestation.

A report from the City of Saskatoon’s administration to a city committee on Monday estimates damages caused by mussels to the city’s water infrastructure could range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

“Impacts to Saskatoon residents would likely include higher costs for utilities (water and power),” a report from November 2016 read.

Invasive mussels are virtually impossible to permanently remove once they’ve infested a waterway.

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