GLEN CANYON NATIONAL RECREATION AREA — Quagga mussels, which can clog water infrastructure, damage boats, ruin fisheries and cost millions of dollars to control, are spreading in Lake Powell, state wildlife officials said Thursday.
With Memorial Day weekend approaching, officials are warning boaters and others traveling to the area to watch out for the invasive species to help prevent it from spreading to other waterways in the state, which are currently free of the mussel.
The mussels also have the ability to damage recreational areas and even the state’s water delivery systems. Officials say the species can remove plankton from the water, which harms fish who eat plankton. It can also damage a boat’s engine cooling system and the sharp shells can cut people’s feet along the shorelines.
Boaters should practice “clean, drain and dry,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Lt. Scott Dalebout said in an emailed statement. Clean, drain and dry is the process of cleaning all plants and mud from a boat trailer and equipment, draining water from bilges, ballasts, live wells and engines and allowing a boat to be completely dry before launching it into other state water areas.
Quagga mussels have been a large enough of a problem that the state created a specific website about it and refer to them as the “STD of the Sea” since they are easily transmitted through boats and are destructive.
“Utah’s waters are tested for quagga mussels regularly, but you never know when and where they might turn up,” Dalebout said, in the statement. “Cleaning, draining and drying your boat — after every boating trip — will help ensure any mussels that might have attached themselves to your boat, or gotten into its water supply, aren’t carried to another water.”
Aside from Lake Powell, the state plans to ramp up efforts for quagga mussel prevention. It will have three mandatory quagga mussel inspection stations for anyone pulling or transporting boats or smaller personal watercraft vehicles, canoes, kayaks or float tubes.
Dalebout warned those who don’t go through inspection will likely receive a citation and then be directed to the inspection station.
Those stations will be located at the I-15 point of entry near St. George, Daniels Canyon point of entry along U.S. Highway 40 southeast of Heber City and in Garden City near Bear Lake. There will also be checkpoints in the routes coming out of the Bullfrog and Wahweap marinas at Lake Powell.
“The officers and biologists check boats for attached quagga and zebra mussels, and for standing water,” Nate Owens, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the DWR, added in the statement. “They also examine boats to ensure the drain plugs have been removed and have not been reinstalled. Citations are issued for violating any of these rules.”
Wildlife officials and Utah State Parks aquatic invasive species technicians will be on hand at boat ramps. Dalebout said boaters should be patient with slightly longer delays on boating roach ramps as officials visit with boaters about the mussels.
“The technicians are working hard to keep Utah’s waters free of quagga mussels," he said. "They’re trying to get boaters through the lines as fast as they can while ensuring that any boat that might be carrying mussels doesn’t slip through.”
Editor's note: The content of this article was taken from a press release sent out by Division of Wildlife Resources. This is not information gathered by KSL.com reporters.
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