Jesco Marine & Power Sports Invests in Invasive Mussel Defense

Kalispell business hosting weekend inspection station at its U.S. 93 South facility

By Dillon Tabish
Watercraft decontamination demonstrations at the Flathead County Fairgrounds on April 27, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

There’s an old saying that Chris Parrott can readily recite: There comes a time when those who can do something have a responsibility to do it.

When the manager at Jesco Marine & Power Sports first heard about aquatic invasive mussels, he knew little about the tiny aquatic invaders.

In a relatively short amount of time, due to the mussels’ unfortunate arrival, Parrott and others have quickly grasped the severity of the threat to the entire landscape, including the recreational industry.

“I wasn’t sure how we could be involved, but I knew that we could do something and thought that we had the responsibility to do something,” he said.

Parrott and the team at Jesco in Kalispell are joining the growing effort to defend against invasive mussels by providing a vital piece to the puzzle. Jesco has invested roughly $20,000 to restructure part of its property along U.S. Highway 93 South to accommodate a new watercraft inspection station.

The local marine dealership is partnering with the Flathead Basin Commission, which will manage the mandatory inspection station and staff it on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“It felt like the right thing to do, and we decided we had a responsibility to do something,” Parrott said. “We needed to step up.”

All watercraft are required to stop at open inspection stations.

Along with the investment and allowing the FBC to operate the station on its property, Jesco also sent employees to receive training in addressing and identifying invasive species. Parrott himself has learned about the invasive mussels that have arrived in Montana for the first time and believes they pose a serious threat to the local valley and economy.

“It could have such a ripple effect if (invasive mussels) came to the Flathead. It’s tough to imagine who wouldn’t be affected by it,” he said. “There would be recreational impacts, financial impacts, environmental impacts.”

Caryn Miske, executive director of the Flathead Basin Commission, credits Jesco with being one of the first private entities to step up and join the fight. Jesco’s facility at the southern entrance to Kalispell made it an ideal location for diverting watercraft for a relatively quick inspection. The business’s direct connection to the watersports community was also ideal.

“This is a major, major victory to have Jesco step up,” Miske said. “If the people that are part of the boating and recreation businesses get onboard, I think it sends a message to their customers that this is really important.”

Zebra and quagga mussels are miniscule aquatic organisms that cling to boats and equipment, such as anchors and bait buckets, and then attach to new subsurfaces, such as docks, rocks and aquatic objects before creating a colony.  They rapidly reproduce and cause deleterious effects that harm native ecosystems and commercial, agricultural and recreational activities.

Most of Montana’s mussel defense currently relies on state government funding. Gov. Steve Bullock last week signed into law Senate Bill 363, which increases funding for the state’s AIS prevention program to $6 million annually. The bill received bipartisan support in the recent legislative session.

Parrott said he hopes to see additional businesses and private entities join the important effort.

“We love Montana’s lakes and rivers,” he said. “Our favorite summer days are spent on the water. We want to protect the watershed. And we’re proud to do our part in making sure it stays safe, clean, and clear.”

Starting Memorial Day, the station at Jesco will operate Fridays from 5-10 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Extra inspection days will also be added on holiday weekends. The station is designed specifically to complement the efforts of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which also has an inspection station at its headquarters in Kalispell on Meridian Avenue that operates from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.


AIS Inspection Requirements

— All out-of-state boaters must receive an inspection before entering any body of water in Montana, including Flathead Lake, Whitefish Lake and the Flathead River.

— All boaters who cross the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin are required to get an inspection before launching.

— Flathead residents must undergo one mandatory initial inspection at the start of the summer season, if they remain in the basin. However, if Flathead residents leave the basin to boat elsewhere, they must be inspected upon reentry to the basin.

— All boaters, whether resident or out-of-state, must stop at any mandatory inspection station they encounter if it’s open.

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