GARDEN CITY – If you are planning a visit to Bear Lake, Hyrum Reservoir or a number of other lakes, be prepared to stop and let a Division of Wildlife Resources officer check your watercraft. It’s a requirement put in place to keep invasive species from spreading – especially quagga and zebra mussels.
The mussels are spreading across the country by taking rides via watercraft from one lake to the next. According to Josh Wright, an aquatic and invasive species interdiction specialist for the Division of Natural Resources, the mussels found their way into Lake Powell earlier this decade and already number in the trillions.
The check stations in Northern Utah are hoping to prevent that in local lakes. Once in a lake, the mussels attach themselves to watercraft, structures and almost anything else they can find, then reproduce and spread rapidly. That’s why every watercraft, from large motorboats to wakeboards and canoes, require an inspection.
If the invasive species were to get into Bear Lake it could ruin boat motors, litter beaches and cause millions of dollars in damage. The mussels are sharp and often cut the feet of beachgoers.
“One of the unique things about them is they use a byssal thread,” Wright said. “They can attach to boats, they can attach to structures and dams. They can reproduce and grow on top of each other so they basically choke off your water supply. There are so many of them that they change your water quality as well.”
Some bringing in watercraft into Bear Lake may not even realize they are carrying the mussels. Young mussels, known as veligers, are microscopic and may be in the standing water left in the boats. That is why, Wright said, it is so important to clean, drain and dry the vessel after each use.
“We can’t see it with the human eye,” he said. “If you have a cup of water it could full of their babies, the veligers, and you wouldn’t even know it.”
Boaters are legally required to stop at the station, which is free. The Bear Lake check station at the entrance to Logan Canyon was moved up the hill at the beginning of this summer to the Bear Lake Overlook SR-89 Rest Area parking lot.
“When they come through we do a basic inspection and ask the boater where it has been to decide whether they have been in an infested body of water or any other place where there is a risk,” Wright said. “We check for standing water and if they have cleaned, drained and dried properly and if they’ve completed their mandatory dry time, then we let them go on their way. If they need decontamination because they are a risk to Bear Lake then we’ll go ahead and do the hot water decontamination.”
Even if you haven’t visited an infected body of water, Wright said you should still get all standing water out of your watercraft.
”Each of these water bodies have unique plant life and aquatic life,” he said. “It’s just really important to remember to remove your drain plug, get all the water out of your boat and clean, drain and dry it after every use before you go to another body of water.”