New Tool Helps Fight Quagga Mussels

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Bill gives officers authority to stop, inspect and detain boats and vehicles

Utah has a new tool to help prevent quagga and zebra mussels from entering the state—Senate Bill 238.

Passed during the 2008 legislative session, SB-238 gives Utah law enforcement officers and port-of-entry agents the authority to stop, inspect and detain vehicles and boats that may contain a quagga or zebra mussel.

If this intervention is successful, it could save Utahns millions of dollars each year.

New tool

SB-238 gives officers the authority to stop and detain vehicles and boats that the officers have reasonable cause to believe might have been used on an infested water or might be carrying quagga or zebra mussels. That includes vehicles and boats that are traveling down roads, entering or leaving parking lots, or anywhere the vehicle or boat might be.

Also, any boat that has been on an infected water must be decontaminated before it enters Utah or is launched on any water in the state.

Devastating effects

The devastating effects quagga and zebra mussels could have on Utah is the reason legislators passed the new law.

Quagga mussels and their cousins, zebra mussels, attach themselves to boat hulls, boat motors, water system intakes and anything else that comes in contact with the water.

Quagga and zebra mussels are destructive to any lake they inhabit. From consuming massive amounts of plankton, which is fish food, to fouling beaches and plugging pumps, pipes and outboard motors, these tiny mussels take over any water they enter.

“Fighting quagga and zebra mussels will not be easy,” says Larry Dalton, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. “If a single breeding pair gets into a water, that single pair can lead to a massive colony.

“It will take everyone’s help and vigilance to keep this tiny creature out of our lakes. Boaters and others who recreate on Utah’s waters need to change their habits.”

Clean, drain and dry

Dalton encourages boaters, anglers and anyone who recreates at Utah’s waters to clean, drain and dry their boat and any other equipment that touches the water.

Specifically, he encourages boaters and anglers to:

Clean plants, fish, mussels and mud from your boat;

Drain the water from all areas of your boat and equipment;

Dry your boat and equipment in the sun before using it again. In the summer, let it dry for at least 7 days in the sun. In the spring and fall, dry it for 18 days in the sun. In the winter, leave your equipment out for 3 days in the freezing temperatures. Leaving it out for 3 days should be enough to kill any mussels that are on your equipment.

You can also have a professional boat washer wash your boat and trailer, and flush your motor, bilge and live wells, with scalding hot water.

The water must be at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, there are very few boat washers in Utah that have equipment that can heat water to 140 degrees.

“Cleaning, draining and drying your boat and equipment is something all of us can do,” Dalton says. “Drying your boat and equipment is just as effective as washing it with water that’s 140 degrees.”

Legislature provides $2 million

In addition to passing SB-238, the legislature authorized more than $2 million to implement an aquatic invasive species program that the DWR and its partners started in 2007.

The $2 million will jumpstart the program by allowing it to buy decontamination equipment, hire and train employees, and develop informative materials.

Massive effort

The DWR and its partners have launched a massive campaign to keep mussels out of Utah this year. If you’re a boater, you’ll be among the first to see the campaign in action.

For example, as you pull up to a boat ramp, you’ll likely be greeted by a biologist or a law enforcement officer. They’ll give you some information about quagga and zebra mussels. They’ll also ask you if you’ve been boating on a water that has mussels.

If you have been boating on an infested water, they’ll ask you to decontaminate your boat before launching it.

Why all of this concern and effort?

Just over a year ago, biologists at Lake Mead discovered a growing population of quagga mussels. During the following months, more and more populations were discovered throughout the lower Colorado River drainage. Biologists found mussels at marinas, popular boating areas, isolated points and even in the intake pipes that supply water to downstream communities in Arizona and California.

Boaters from the lower Colorado River drainage often visit Utah. Because quagga and zebra mussels are usually transported on boats, this discovery puts Utah at risk.

The DWR has purchased 26 boat decontamination units to help keep Utah’s lakes clean. If you have been in a quagga or zebra mussel-infested water, you must get your boat decontaminated before placing it on any of Utah’s waters.

For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR’s Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.