SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is pulling out all the stops trying to curtail the spreading of the invasive quagga mussel from spreading into lakes and reservoirs across the state. Between the last two holidays – Memorial Day and the Fourth of July – they have inspected almost 8,000 boats.
DWR officials looked over more than 3,400 boats over the Independence Day weekend (Friday through Monday) and over the Memorial Day weekend 4,496 boats were inspected for the shelled critters.
The invasive species continue to be a concern for officials who are trying to keep them from spreading into waters across the Beehive State. Watercraft were also inspected when leaving Lake Powell to make sure they were free of invasive quagga mussels.
Statewide, Aquatic Invasive Species technicians with the DWR, Utah State Parks, Arizona Game and Fish Department and the National Park Service inspected 3,434 boats and performed 117 decontaminations from Friday to Monday. During last year’s Fourth of July weekend, 5,959 inspections were performed statewide, and 122 boats were decontaminated.
Of those total numbers, 429 of the boat inspections and 73 of the decontaminations took place at stations in the Lake Powell area.
“We want to remind boaters that all watercraft leaving Lake Powell require an exit inspection during the inspection station’s hours of operation,” DWR Aquatic Invasive Species Lt. Bruce Johnson said. “Watercraft includes kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and inflatable rafts. And it’s important to remember that inspections are not the same as decontaminations.”
After a watercraft is inspected and quagga mussels were found, the watercraft must be decontaminated before launching that watercraft at a different waterbody.
If a decontamination can’t be performed, the watercraft must wait the required dry time before launching again.
Johnson said they’ve had a shortage of staff this year and they are working as quickly as they can, but he asked for everyone’s patience and compliance in getting the required inspections.
“We are doing more with far less staff at Lake Powell this year,” he said. “If you need a decontamination, you need to call and schedule one in advance, as our limited staff may not be able to accommodate that.
“As mentioned, you can also wait the required dry time before you launch at another waterbody. Please always clean, drain and dry, which includes removing drain plugs and sea strainers on your boat.”
Statewide, DWR conservation officers issued 55 citations for violations of Utah laws established to prevent the spread of invasive mussels. Most of the violations were because people with a watercraft failed to stop at mandatory inspection stations.
Another common violation over the Independence Day weekend was boaters failing to remove the drain plug on their watercraft — a law which went into effect in 2020.
There are over 40 inspection stations located at various waterbodies and along highways throughout Utah.
To find a inspection station, visit the Utah Department of Natural Resources website for a list of all the decontamination stations around the state.
Idaho State Department of Agriculture handles the quagga and zebra mussel inspections in Idaho.
Idaho state law states that any motorized or non-motorized boat operating in Idaho is required to display an Invasive Species Fund (ISF) sticker.
Boat owners purchase and display an ISF sticker, they contribute to a fund that provides vessel inspections, washing stations and informational materials that will assist Idaho in preventing the introduction of aquatic invasive species like quagga mussels.
Quagga mussels could be devastating to the agricultural industry for the following reasons:
- They plug water lines, even lines that are large in diameter.
- If they get into water delivery systems in Utah, it will cost millions of dollars annually to remove them and keep the pipes free, which can result in higher utility bills.
- They remove plankton from the water, which hurts fish species in Utah.
- Mussels get into your boat’s engine cooling system. Once they do, they’ll foul the system and damage the engine.
- When mussels die in large numbers, they stink and the sharp shells of dead mussels also cut your feet as you walk along the beaches.
For frequently asked questions and other information about the Invasive Species Program, please visit the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.