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As water levels drop, mussels can be seen attached to every hard surface in Lake Powell.

I guess the phrase “better late than never” applies to Utah as officials have finally gotten serious about stopping the spread of quagga mussels as boat owners pass through the state. Right now, Lake Powell is the only body of water in Utah that has quagga mussels. And, according to a recent Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) news release, “… [we] are working to keep it that way.”

In May, the UDWR announced that with funding increases approved by the Utah Legislature, five new resources are in the works to try to stop the spread of quagga and potentially zebra mussels. All but one of these additional resources will be tough on recreational boaters that can expect delays on weekends, at popular destinations like state parks, and other reservoirs. New administrative rules will allow “DUI”-type stops for all traffic in specific spots, regardless of whether or not people are actually towing watercrafts.

The reason I began this column with “better late than never” is straight forward. Mussels have been a threat to Utah waters since 2007, when they were first discovered in Lake Mead, just 90 minutes from the Utah/Nevada border. Yet, for most of the last 12 years there were no inspection stations for people towing watercrafts coming into Utah on I-15.

Instead, officials chose to spend their resources (using manned check points) at individual destinations like Sand Hollow or other popular reservoirs throughout the state. To me, considering the sheer numbers of lakes and reservoirs in Utah, that seemed like using your finger to stop a leak in the Glen Canyon Dam.

The obvious elephant in the room was Lake Powell, and since the National Parks Service (initially) showed little interest in attacking the threat head-on, the UDWR was left a lone agency with a massive challenge before it, which (in my opinion) is why there are mussels in Lake Powell.

Meanwhile, specifically in Idaho and of course California, mandatory boat inspections have been the law on major roads both entering and (in some cases) leaving each state. We can all remember the times we dreaded going through the inspection stations at the California border for fear we hadn’t eaten all the oranges or other fruit we had in the back of our cars.

To be fair, California already had the inspection stations built and were ready to simply add another layer to an already cumbersome operation. However, Idaho took the bull by the horns and created inspection stations out of wide spots in the road, rest stops, and other locations because they understood what invasive mussels could do to their water-based agricultural economy.

Due to the length of this column, other states’ efforts to stop the spread of mussels won’t be discussed but rest assured, stopping the spread of mussels is a very big deal all over the west.

Here are the five new resources Utah will now be implementing.

  1. Forty new decontamination stations will be opened.
  2. Operating hours will be increased for decontamination stations on launch ramps.
  3. More administrative checkpoints will be set up statewide.
  4. Additional law enforcement patrols will be working at specific bodies of water.
  5. New “dip tanks” will be added to help with decontaminations.

Only No. 5 has the very real potential of helping shorten the time spent decontaminating boats. If dip tank technology actually works, a boat under 30 feet in length could be cleaned in around five minutes versus the 30 minutes it now takes on a good day.

I know people of tired of hearing about invasive mussels. However (as taxpayers), we absolutely must obey the laws of our state. Clean, drain and dry your boat, canoe, kayak, float tube (or dog), including life jackets, ropes, live wells, ballast tanks, and bilge areas EVERY TIME you leave a body of water.

If you arrive at or leave from a launch ramp after business hours for a decontamination station, you still have the responsibility to pull your plugs, and clean your boat or other watercrafts.

Please, don’t move a mussel.

Don Allphin can be reached at don@donallphin.com