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Jed Boal and Greg Neft Reporting Boaters beware. Utah waterways are at risk of a devastating invasion this spring that threatens fish and boats, and could even cost us millions of dollars.
The new enemy number one in western waters is the Zebra Mussel.
If you travel in and out of Utah with your boat, giving it a hot bath should soon become routine. And when you drop any boat in Utah waters expect questions about where it's been. Fisheries Research Coordinator W. Clay Perschon said, "Their reproductive potential is so high that you can go from just a few individuals to complete infestation in just a few years."
Wildlife officers this morning launched a critical mission to protect Lake Powell, Bear Lake and all of our waterways from an environmentally-crippling infestation. Zebra Mussels and Quagga Mussels have ravaged the Great Lakes and other eastern waters. They arrived from the Caspian and Black seas two decades ago and first showed up in Lake Mead two months ago.
Utahns boat in Lake Mead, and Lake Mead boaters often come to Utah. "With the interstate coming up from Lake Mead, the potential is there to impact us," Perschon told KSL.
Wildlife officials tell us it's up to each boater to take responsibility for their own boat, for cleaning out the live tanks and bilges, especially if they've been in infested waters. "Every boat that's moving that's been in infected waters is a problem," Perschon said.
The more they learn about the mussels, the worse they sound. The mussels harm fish by filtering nutrients out of water. They also clog water and sewer lines, and encase boats' motors. There are estimates of $5 billion of damage in eastern states. Utah Fisheries Director Walt Donaldson said, "They've caused major damages to water culinary systems, power plant intake systems, and they've changed fisheries throughout the eastern United States."
Bill Zook, an education specialist on Zebra Mussels, said, "Once the problem occurs in your favorite body of water, it changes things forever; there's no going back."
Utah wildlife officials say time is the enemy. Boaters are already on the water and education is the key. "Either we take responsibility now, and take care of the waterways, or we suffer the consequences," Perschon said.
Utah boaters can prevent the infestation with vigilance. A program called Zap the Zebra shows boaters how hot water washing and other precautions can keep the mussels at bay.
If you're a boater, visit the important links on the right. You can find out what you need to do to protect our waters from Zebra Mussels. Also, this campaign doesn't apply to salt water boating.