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SALT LAKE CITY — Fifty-four people received misdemeanor citations related to quagga mussels over the Memorial Day weekend, state wildlife officials said Tuesday. The citations come as state officials have ramped up efforts to eliminate "the STD of the sea."
In all, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources technicians inspected 5,718 boats and performed 142 decontaminations at more than 40 different checkpoints in the state between Friday and Monday. A large chunk of the boats inspected were in the Lake Powell area, where quagga mussels have been an ongoing problem.
Wildlife officials said technicians inspected 1,319 boats at stations around Lake Powell and found quagga mussels on 118 boats over the four-day span. Forty-two of the 54 statewide citations were issued to boaters in the Lake Powell area who either did not stop for mandatory inspections or transported their boats with plugs still in.
Quagga mussels pose a potential problem because they alter food webs in bodies of water by removing plankton; they also clog water-intake pipes and other water infrastructure, which can cause extensive damage. The invasive species is typically spread to other bodies of water by boats and other watercraft.
The issues quagga mussels cause are significant enough that it was brought up a couple of times during the 2020 Legislature. A bill that goes into effect in July calls for out-of-state boaters to pay $20 annually to launch a boat into a Utah body of water. That money is to be put toward measures to prevent quagga mussels from spreading.
All boat owners will also be required to complete an online education course regarding how to prevent those species from spreading, and then show proof they completed the course before they are allowed to launch their boat in a body of water in Utah.
In addition to that change, Utah lawmakers passed a resolution that urged the National Park Service and other federal entities to "prevent the spread of invasive quagga mussels and improve the inspection and decontamination for all watercraft leaving Lake Powell."
In a prepared statement issued Tuesday, DWR’s Aquatic Invasive Species Operations team Sgt. Krystal Tucker said it’s important that all boaters abide laws set up to prevent the spread of the invasive species.
"In order to keep our Utah waters mussel-free, we need public support and compliance," she said. "Our goal is to stop the spread of invasive mussels in order to protect Utah's waters so they remain accessible to the public and continue to provide incredible recreational opportunities for everyone."