Amid the COVID-19 nightmare, you might imagine that checking for quagga mussels in Utah waters would have taken a back seat. However, I am happy to report that the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) claims there were no new mussel infestations in Utah in 2020.
Let’s take a look at how the UDWR is keeping infestations in check and proactively working with boat owners, anglers, and the general public to keep the reservoirs in Utah that currently have mussel infestations to one: Lake Powell.
The UDWR reports that 445,392 boat inspections took place in 2020. To quote from a recent news release, “The goal of these inspections is to prevent invasive quagga mussels from spreading from Lake Powell (and other states’ infested waters) to Utah waterbodies that are currently free of invasive mussels.”
Inspection personnel and decontamination equipment are available in most State Parks throughout Utah, and in 2020, 10,959 boats were professionally decontaminated which amounts to a 25 percent increase from 2019. Boats “require” decontamination when they have been on Lake Powell or come from other states, and attempt (or plan) to launch on another water body without being able to follow the protocol to clean, drain, dry, and “wait” the appropriate number of days before launching.
Decontamination services are provided at no cost to boat owners, including visual inspections looking for vegetation, mud or even attached quagga mussels. Then 140-degree water (which immediately kills both juvenile and adult quagga mussels) is sprayed on the outside of each boat and trailer, pumped into the live wells, bilge and ballast compartments, and even into the motors.
This past year (2020) new legislation made it mandatory that boats of all sizes and shapes have their drain plugs removed before leaving a body of water, and must not have the plug in while traveling.
This single law (in my opinion) has helped more than any other in protecting our streams, lakes, and reservoirs from inadvertent infestations of quagga mussels. You see, people just don’t understand how something as simple as bilge or ballast water could spread mussels.
They don’t seem to realize that up to a million tiny larvae-stage quagga mussels, called veligers, can be produced by a single adult quagga mussel over the course of a year. They can hitchhike to other bodies of water on throw and dock ropes anchors, live wells, bilge and ballast compartments as well as in water left in motors.
If the regulations weren’t followed, it would be just a matter of time before quagga mussels infested most if not all of our most popular reservoirs. The domino effect of these kinds of infestations would be that mussels would clog intake and outlet pipes, pumps, and would attach themselves to docks, propellers, and most anything else in the reservoir which would end up costing millions of dollars to tackle. Our entire water transportation system could be affected, including culinary and irrigation water.
How can boatowners assist the UDWR in preventing the spread of mussels?
After boating in any body of water in Utah or other states, do the following:
You should remove all water, mud, plant materials and other debris from your boat. This should definitely include inspecting live wells, anchors and compartments in which dock ropes and even life jackets are stored.
You are now required to remove all drain plugs and leave them out during transport. All water should be completely drained from ballast tanks, bilges and live wells. If you have outboard or inboard/outboard engines, you should drop the lower units and drain those areas too.
Be responsible for keeping your boat dry (including all afore mentioned areas for the required time (to be completely safe, 30 days) before launching again. If your boat has ballast tanks, inboard or inboard/outboard motors, please opt to have it professionally decontaminated before launching.
For the moment, we (from boaters to government) are at least keeping mussels at bay while exploring other (better) ways to protect our precious natural resources in the future.
Keep up the good work!