Boaters Should “Clean, Drain and Dry” for Holiday Weekend; Watercraft Checkpoint on I-5 North Near Redding

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The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) advises boaters to clean, drain and dry vessels to avoid being turned away from lakes and reservoirs. The department will conduct mandatory boat inspections along Interstate 5 near Redding May 22 -23, from 2-8 p.m. each day, and many local waterways plan their own vessel inspections in advance of Memorial Day weekend.

“Quagga and Zebra mussels pose a serious threat to our waters and fisheries, and they can severely damage boats,” said DFG Director Donald Koch. “Boaters should be prepared for inspections throughout the state that will help ensure California’s water bodies remain mussel-free.”

In addition to being sure to clean, drain and dry watercraft, DFG urges boaters to plan for possible launch restrictions and inspections by calling water bodies before leaving home. Programs and requirements vary and can change rapidly.

At the DFG checkpoint on I-5, vehicles trailering watercraft will be directed to exit at the California Highway Patrol Cottonwood Inspection Facility (truck scales) in Tehama County.

Upon entrance to the scales, DFG Game Wardens will ask vessel owners a series of questions about their watercraft. Vessels found to be clean will be released and allowed back onto the Interstate; boaters with suspect vessels will be inspected onsite by trained biologists and specially trained detection dogs. “Dirty” vessels – those that have not been cleaned, drained and dried – could be quarantined.

Mussels pose serious problems for boaters and water enthusiasts. They can:

ruin the engine by blocking the cooling system – causing overheating

increase drag on the bottom of the boat, reducing speed and wasting fuel

jam steering equipment on boats

require scraping and repainting of boat bottoms

colonize all underwater substrates such as boat ramps, docks, lines and other underwater surfaces requiring constant cleaning

To help prevent the spread of the mussels, boaters should inspect all exposed surfaces, wash boat hulls thoroughly, remove all plants from boat and trailer, drain all water, including lower outboard units, clean and dry livewells and bait buckets and dispose baitfish in the trash. Watercraft should be dried for at least five days, between launches in different fresh bodies of water. These steps are designed to thwart spread of the invasive mussels, safeguard boats and preserve high quality fisheries.

California law makes it illegal to possess or transport Quagga or Zebra mussels and gives DFG authority to stop, detain, search and quarantine boats suspected or determined to be contaminated with mussels.

Zebra mussels inhabit water depths from four to 180 feet, while Quagga can reach depths more than 400 feet. Both mollusks can attach to and damage boat trailers, cooling systems, boat hulls and steering equipment. Mussels attached to watercraft or trailers can be transported and spread to other water bodies. Water in boat engines, bilges, live wells and buckets can carry mussel larvae (called veligers) to other water bodies as well.

Quagga mussels were first detected in the Colorado River system in January 2007 and were later found in San Diego and Riverside counties by state and local water agencies. Zebra mussels were discovered in San Justo Reservoir in San Benito County in January 2008.

A multi-agency taskforce that includes DFG, the Department of Water Resources, the Department of Boating and Waterways, and California State Parks is currently working to determine the extent of the Quagga and Zebra mussel threat and to educate watercraft users. As part of the public education effort, the state has facilitated nearly a dozen Quagga/Zebra inspection and decontamination trainings for more than 350 individuals in San Diego, Redding, Fresno, Stockton, Monterey, Los Alamitos, Onatrio, Lake County, Sacramento and Yountville. Additional training sessions are expected in other regions later this year.

A public toll-free number hotline has been established for boaters and anyone involved with activities on lakes and rivers seeking information on the invasive and destructive Quagga mussels at 1-866-440-9530.

For more information on the Quagga/Zebra mussel response, please visit the DFG Web site at

To learn what boaters can do to stem the spread of the invasive Quagga mussel, download (PDF)