State officials expand efforts to battle invasive mussels

quagga mussels
Quagga mussel in the hand of an observer, St. George, undated | Photo by Natalie Muth, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

SOUTHERN UTAH – In spring of 2010, a quappa mussel was found on a boat in Sand Hollow Reservoir. Recent DNA test done on the area indicates the invasive species might still be there. Despite the test, no further evidence of mussels has been found. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah State Parks are looking to keep it that way.

In Provo, personnel with Utah State Parks recently completed two days of training at Utah Lake State Park.  They learned how to inspect boats for the invasive mussels and how to decontaminate boats if mussels are found.

Technicians with the Division of Wildlife Resources have handled this task since 2008. A smaller force of DWR technicians will continue to inspect and decontaminate boats at some of Utah’s most popular waters.  But state parks personnel will now handle that task at all of the state parks that have waters within them.

Larry Dalton, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the DWR, is excited about the partnership.  He said having parks’ personnel handle this task will help ensure that every boater who enters a state park is contacted.

“Our personnel have been able to contact most of the boaters who have entered the parks,” Dalton said, “But our people aren’t at the parks as much as the state park rangers and ranger aides who run the parks.”

In addition to learning how to inspect and decontaminate boats, state parks personnel learned how to train other parks employees to do the same thing.

“The park ranger aides who will do the bulk of the inspections are seasonal employees,” Dalton said, “So they won’t be stationed at the parks throughout the year.  But all of the personnel at the parks will know how to inspect and decontaminate boats.  So even when seasonal employees aren’t at the parks, the parks will be covered.”

Fred Hayes, Utah State Parks director said:  “Our goal with this partnership is to get boaters on state park lakes and reservoirs with minimal wait time, while protecting our waters. We feel we can better serve our visitors by taking over inspection and decontamination responsibilities at boat ramps.”

Hayes added this joint project will enhance the efficiency of both agencies, and allow them to focus additional resources on preventing the spread of these invasive species.

The Color County DWR office confirmed the practice of washing off the boats after leaving the statewide. Also, the DWR also encourages visitors to state parks to wash and their boats before entering one of Utah’s lakes or reservoirs.

Why the concern?

The following are reasons why you should be concerned about quagga and zebra mussels:

  • Mussels can plug water lines, even very large diameter ones.

Dalton said widespread infestation by quagga or zebra mussels could cost Utahns more than $15 million every year to maintain Utah’s water delivery systems.  “That cost would likely be passed on to every citizen in the form of higher utility bills,” he saiod.

  • Mussels remove plankton from the water column, the same plankton that supports Utah’s sport fish and native fish.  The mussels could devastate fisheries in Utah.
  • Mussels can damage your boat by attaching themselves to your boat’s hull and fouling the boat’s engine cooling system.
  • When mussels die in large numbers, they stink.  And their sharp shells can cut your feet as you walk along the beaches where the mussels died.



Clean, drain and dry

Quagga and zebra mussels move from water to water by attaching themselves to boats and other equipment that comes in contact with the water.

Cleaning, draining and drying your boat and any recreational equipment that comes in contact with the water is the key to eliminating the mussels.  “You can do this yourself,” Dalton said, “And it won’t cost you a thing.”

Follow these three steps to clean, drain and dry your boat

(1) Remove all of the plants, mud or animals (attached mussels or fish) from your boat’s exterior and interior by wiping the exterior and interior clean.

(2) Drain all the water from places in your boat where it may have accumulated.  This includes the ballast tanks, the bilge, live wells and the motor.  Even coolers that contain water from the lake should be drained.

The first two steps should be done immediately after pulling your boat out of the water and up the launch ramp.  “Doing these steps should become as routine as securing your boat to its trailer,” Dalton says.  “Make sure you do them every time.

(3) Finally, dry your boat and all the equipment that got wet (water toys, anchor or tie ropes and the anchor chest) at home or where you store it for the following length of time:

Months                                                            Dry time

March, April and May            – 18  days

June, July and August – 7 days

September, October and November – 18 days

December, January and February – 30 days

Temperatures that drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for three straight days will also kill the mussels.

If you want to get your boat on the water before the drying times allow, you’ll have to get it professionally decontaminated.  “Decontamination equipment is available at most of Utah’s popular boating waters,” Dalton said, “And the service is typically free.”

When you get your boat decontaminated, a certified operator will wash it inside and out with scalding hot water – 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  He or she will also use the same hot water to flush the raw water circulation systems on your boat.

You can learn where decontamination units are located by calling a regional DWR aquatic invasive species biologist.  You can find their telephone numbers at the DWR website.


The clean, drain and dry steps are also available in a video at the DWR’s YouTube site.

Once you arrive at our YouTube page, scroll through the video choices until you find the video titled “Stop the spread of invasive mussels from Sand Hollow—clean, drain and dry your boat.”

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