BANFF – All motorized boats must now undergo a Parks Canada inspection before being launched in Lake Minnewanka to prevent the risk of introducing aquatic invasive species.
In addition, all boaters wishing to bring non-motorized watercraft such as kayaks, canoes, or stand-up paddle boards on park lakes and rivers must also submit to an inspection or complete the mandatory self-certification program. to meet the so-called cleaning, emptying and dry needs.
“We are trying to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species,” said Daniella Rubeling, Parks Canada’s Visitor Experience Manager for Banff National Park.
“We’re building on the program we had last year and tightening things up a bit. We exercise due diligence in terms of preventing the introduction of AIS (aquatic invasive species). »
Lake Minnewanka is the only body of water in Banff National Park where motorized watercraft are permitted and the inspection station on the Lake Minnewanka Loop Road is open for the season.
Rubeling said what’s new this year is that all motorized watercraft will have to be inspected by Parks Canada.
“Provincial AIS inspections will not be accepted,” she said. “They have to go through our inspection station to get started in Minnewanka.”
As last year, all non-motorized watercraft, fishing equipment and water-related gear must comply with cleaning, emptying and drying requirements at least 48 hours before use in any lake or river in the Park.
The mandatory license applies to any canoe, kayak, raft, stand-up paddle board or inflatable boat or toy, as well as fishing equipment such as rods, tackle, waders, wading boots and gloves . Life jackets, throw bags, water shoes, wetsuits and water toys are also included.
The mandatory self-certification permit can be completed online at www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/nautiques-sports/nettoyez-videz-sechez-clean-drain-dry/permis-permitor at one of the approximately 30 self-certification stations spread throughout the park.
However, outdoor enthusiasts may also choose to use the in-person inspection station at Lake Minnewanka and another located at the old Trans-Canada Highway Park and Ride east of the hamlet of Lake Louise.
Rubeling said if people can’t meet the 48-hour clean, drain and dry requirement — which is based on best practice for managing whirlwind disease — they can also visit one or the other of the stations.
“Staff will inspect canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and ask a bunch of questions about where they’ve been,” she said.
“If they are found to have been cleaned, drained and dried and not been in high risk AIS positive waters, staff can issue an inspection permit for that day. there so they can go ahead and get going.”
Aquatic invasive species can be introduced through activities such as canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and fishing.
They can alter aquatic ecosystems, cause irreversible damage and affect already vulnerable species at risk, such as the westslope cutthroat trout.
“We’ve seen the impacts locally with whirling disease, with Johnson Lake having to be drained and closed for several years to try to get this form out of that body of water,” Rubeling said.
Quagga and zebra mussels are thought to have been introduced by transcontinental shipping from the Baltic Sea to the Great Lakes region of Canada and the United States in the 1980s.
These mussels have spread to Ontario and Quebec and have been discovered in Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba. They are also found in many US states as far west as California. However, they have not yet spread to British Columbia or Alberta, although they have been intercepted on boats at provincial inspection stations.
“Species like zebra mussels and quagga mussels can damage boat engines, clog water intake and dramatically alter the ecological community of our water bodies,” Rubeling said.
“This could impact angling as well as infrastructure, ecological integrity and visitor experience.”
Rubeling said the data collected from mandatory permits helps Parks Canada understand how and where people use the park’s lakes and rivers.
“We will use this information to see how we continue to adjust and adapt the program in the years to come,” she said.
The Lake Minnewanka Loop Road Inspection Station for both motorized and non-motorized inspections is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. until June 4 before moving to peak hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on June 5.
The Lake Louise inspection station, which is open only for inspection of non-motorized watercraft, is currently open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but will have extended hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting June 5.
Anyone caught without the required license can be charged and face a maximum penalty of $25,000 in court. The mandatory permit program also applies to Kootenay and Yoho national parks.