State agencies from the university system to the highway department are asking the legislature for funds from a budget that is significantly smaller than in years past.

One such agency is Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, facing a very big problem with the outbreak of invasive mussels in some state waterways. Spokesman Ron Aasheim said the money to combat the problem simply has to be found.

"We're talking $10 or $11 million dollars right now," Aasheim said. "A lot of our public doesn't understand how we could spend that kind of money. Well, it's a multi-billion dollar problem all around the United States. Invasive mussels impact agriculture, causing problems with irrigation systems. municipal water supplies, and certainly recreation and fishing opportunities."

Aasheim said no matter what happens with the legislature, Montanans will see the impacts of invasive mussels this summer.

"Regardless, they'll see some things that are different this summer in Montana," he said. "At Canyon Ferry and Tiber Reservoir there will be a lot stricter requirements for boat inspections and even to be decontaminated if you're going to use it elsewhere. There'll be more inspection stations around the state. Potentially, this is a huge problem for Montana."

If Montana's waterways are affected or restricted by invasive mussels, that may affect the upcoming fishing season, which could lead to fewer visitors to the state, spending less money on tourism, meals, hotels and even gasoline. The legislature will be looking at all these factors as they consider how much money to dedicate to the problem of invasive mussels.

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