Low water levels and Quagga mussels concern for Bear Lake

GARDEN CITY – The Bear Lake summer season is in full swing. Thousands travel to the lake every summer to enjoy the famous blue water.

However, there are a few concerns with the lake this year. According to a release from Bear Lake Watch Inc., the lake only rose 1.8 feet this spring. While that is more than it rose the last two years, it was still one of the worst 25 years since 1919.

Low water levels are a worry for those who use the lake’s water for irrigation, those who live in one of the communities on the lake and those who use it for recreation. According to Claudia Cottle of Bear Lake Watch Inc., if the water gets too low it makes access to the lake difficult.

“If it gets real low we get below the sand and get into clay, a clay layer,” she said. “It’s just slippery and sticky and everybody starts getting stuck and it gets boggy.”

Low water levels can also help spread unwanted weeds, such as dyer’s woad and phragmites.

“It exposes a lot of barren ground and then it’s susceptible to growing upland kind of plants and particularly weeds that are invasive,” Cottle said. “Phragmites are a big problem because little pieces of them just break off, they float around the lake and wherever they land they start a new colony.”

Another concern for the lake is the invasive Quagga mussel. The mussels have not yet been found in Bear Lake, but new regulations have been put in place to keep them out.

“All boats are supposed to stop as they come into the valley now. There’s a check station that’s opened most of the time and then when they’re not people should get their boats checked at the marina when they check in,” Cottle said. “The law applies if they are not going to the marina or if the check stand isn’t open, they’re still responsible to make sure their boats are cleaned, drained and dried and that they sign the forms.”

The Quagga mussel is a freshwater mussel that is not indigenous to North America, but has caused a lot of concern as it has spread through different parts of the United States, including Lake Powell. Once they get into a lake, they are able to reproduce very rapidly. Quagga mussels can clog and ruin boat engines, kill fish and cover beaches.

“As they die the shells are left behind. The creatures decay and they stink and the shells are very, very sharp. It has ruined beaches all across the country,” Cottle said. “I had somebody email us from one of the Great Lakes and he said, ‘Whatever you can do, don’t get these because we used to enjoy going barefoot on our beach and that’s a thing of the past. We have to wear shoes on the beach now.’”

The boat checks are found in Garden City, Laketown and St. Charles, Idaho.

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