“The quagga situation at Lake Powell has worsened. If you boat at Lake Powell it’s very likely your boat has quagga mussels on it,” said DNR Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator Nathan Owens. “With more mussels in the lake and lower water levels, more boaters have mussels attached to their vessels than in past years. Our techs are regularly finding them on and in boats that have only been in Lake Powell for a day or two — something we haven’t experienced in the past.”
The quagga mussel was first seen in the Great Lakes in September 1989. Since then, it has spread to more than a dozen states, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species website, nas.er.usgs.gov. The website states that quagga mussels remove phytoplankton from the water, decreasing the food sources for zooplankton and impacting food webs. The mussels also rapidly colonize hard surfaces, “causing serious economic problems” as they clog pipes and screens of water treatment plants and power plants and interfere with other forms of industry.
With the evolving situation at Lake Powell, AIS technicians are frequently finding mussels in sea strainers and attached to anchors. As a result, state officials strongly encourage boaters to have their boats decontaminated before leaving Lake Powell. If decontamination at Lake Powell is not possible, boaters can visit stdofthesea.utah.gov to find a nearby decontamination site.
To address the growing problem, Utah has stepped up its inspection, decontamination, training, enforcement and monitoring efforts, according to the DNR press release. Some of those efforts are concentrated at Lake Powell, while others are happening throughout the state.
Utah’s inspection and decontamination efforts will surpass previous efforts this year. As of July 30, AIS technicians and personnel had inspected more than 144,000 watercraft statewide. Of those, 4,700 required decontamination. In comparison, Utah performed 130,000 inspections and 4,400 decontaminations during the same period last year.
So far in 2018, Utah’s AIS technicians have worked closely with employees of the National Park Service to educate boaters about the changing situation at Lake Powell and to inspect more than 47,000 boats that were exiting the lake, according to the press release. More than 3,100 of those boats were decontaminated at the lake. In all of 2017, approximately 51,000 boats were inspected at Lake Powell, and roughly 2,500 were decontaminated. Boats that visit Lake Powell — and subsequently visit another body of water — are inspected again at the second location. As of Aug. 20, AIS inspection personnel have found 121 boats with mussels at other Utah lakes and reservoirs. Those boats were either decontaminated or quarantined. This is a significant increase compared to recent years.
Criminal charges for mussel-related offenses range from an infraction to a Class A misdemeanor. Contaminated boats can also be seized and placed in quarantine. So far in 2018, more than 100 mussel-infested boats have been quarantined. That compares to fewer than 10 boats quarantined in all of 2017
As of July 2018, all of Utah’s water bodies besides Lake Powell had tested negative for quagga mussels.