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Tests show Utah waters free of invasive mussels



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah waters are free of invasive quagga and zebra mussels for now, but an aggressive prevention campaign against them will continue, state officials said.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials said they're pleased with the results from 50 samples taken across the state.

But they said they'll continue to pay special attention to Red Fleet Reservoir north of Vernal and Electric Lake in Emery County, both of which earlier tested positive for the mussels.

"We will decontaminate every boat that leaves those two waters," said Larry Dalton, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the DWR.

The nonnative mussels are prolific breeders that can clog pipes in dams, power plants and irrigation systems, and destroy fisheries.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the cost of dealing with a mussel infestation in the Great Lakes region could reach as high as $5 billion.

Dalton said four mussels-encrusted boats were encountered in Utah this year, and none of them made it in the water.

Aquatic invasive species employees made direct contact with more than 200,000 boats in 2009, he said, and inspections were conducted when deemed necessary.

In Utah, boat owners who have been in contaminated water must assert that they've cleaned, drained and dried their vessels or have had their hulls blasted with 140-degree water by professionals. Violators can be fined $5,000 fine and sentenced to up to six months in jail.

National Park Service officials at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on Lake Powell also have been enforcing mussel inspections.

A Nevada boater was fined $2,500 for failing to have his "at risk" boat inspected before launching into Lake Powell.

"The National Park Service has handed out a number of infractions regarding aquatic invasive species," Dalton told the Salt Lake Tribune. "People need to be aware how serious this issue is."

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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