Boaters: Mandatory AIS inspection stations open now, or will open soon

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The first watercraft inspection stations of 2018 have opened in Ravalli, Blue Bay and Kalispell, and vessels traveling into the Flathead Basin are now required to undergo inspections to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is implementing a pilot program requiring motorized and non-motorized vessels traveling into the Flathead Basin that have been used on waters outside of the basin to be checked at an official inspection station prior to launching. Emergency response vehicles engaging in emergency response activities are exempt.

Watercraft that are already within the Flathead Basin when the pilot program takes effect March 16 do not require a new inspection. If a boat leaves the basin and launches on any body of water, it must be inspected upon return before launching in the Flathead Basin. Inspection is also required for all watercraft entering the state and crossing west over the Continental Divide prior to launch in the waters of Montana.

FWP opened its first certification station at its regional office in Kalispell, 490 N. Meridian last week. The station will be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have opened the Ravalli check station as well. Similar to last year, additional check stations will open in spring across the basin and statewide.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes is requiring all watercraft that are participating in Spring Mack Days to undergo inspections. Spring Mack Days runs from now until May 13.

Inspections can also be arranged at CSKT offices at 406 Sixth Ave. E. in Polson, Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (406) 675-2700, ext. 7280, or (406) 261-6515 to arrange a time.

State parks staff are rebuilding the dock at West Shore State Park after it was damaged during winter, and the state park should open for spring by late this month. The boat launch and day-use area at Big Arm State Park is open but the concrete boat ramp is currently unusable due to ice. Yellow Bay State Park is also open for day-use and the floating dock will be installed when ice clears along the shoreline. Finley Point State Park historically remains closed to boater access until lake levels rise in springtime. Wayfarers State Park is open and the fixed dock is dependent on lake levels.

The seasonal dock at the Somers Fishing Access Site will be installed when ice clears from the shoreline. Other fishing access sites allow lake access depending on water levels.

Watercraft inspections are a vital way to defend Montana’s waterways by checking vessels and equipment that have the potential to spread aquatic invasive species, such as zebra and quagga mussels.

Anyone carrying or towing any watercraft or water-based equipment — non-motorized and motorized — must stop at all open watercraft inspection stations they encounter in Montana. Inspections consist of a boater interview, a watercraft inspection and decontamination (if necessary).

To ensure a speedy inspection, boaters are asked to clean, drain and dry their watercraft prior to arrival at a watercraft inspection station.

For more information about Montana’s efforts to defend against aquatic invasive species, visit cleandraindrymt.com and the “Protect Our Waters Montana” Facebook page.

For more information about the CSKT AIS prevention program, visit CSKTnomussels.org.

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