ST. GEORGE – The presence of quagga mussels, those tiny and unwanted water-borne miscreants, is currently undetected at Sand Hollow reservoir and state officials want to keep it that way.
In order to keep the invasive mussels known as the “STD of the Sea” or “skiff-transmitted disease of the sea,” from infesting Sand Hollow and other reservoirs, mandatory inspection stations have long been set up in the state. One of these stations is at the Interstate 15 port of entry at the Utah-Arizona border.
Compliance at the stations has been good for the most part, but some people still blow by the stations towing their boats and watercraft behind them – an action that may not make that individual’s wallet happy.
“Too many boaters are still ‘blowing past’ the stations and risking a ticket,” officials with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said in a press release. “Officers are especially concerned about the station at the St. George port of entry.”
Individuals found transporting the mussels could be fined up to $5,000, according to the DWR.
From April 14 through July 10, vehicles towing a total of 2,330 watercraft stopped at the port. About 514 didn’t stop, DWR officials said.
“Many of the boats that are traveling north on I-15 are coming from Lake Mead and other waters in Nevada,” DWR Lt. Scott Dalebout said. “These waters are heavily infested with mussels.”
People are also coming with boats that have been used at Lake Powell, which has also been invaded by the mussels, said Laura Melling, Sand Hollow Complex manager.
DWR officers pull over and ticket as many boaters as they can. But there aren’t enough officers to watch the port of entry all the time.
“The key to keeping quagga mussels out of Utah, and keeping mussels that are in Lake Powell from spreading to other waters, is complete and total support from the public,” Dalebout said. “Please stop at the mandatory stations. Please do the right thing.”
If quagga mussels get into Utah’s waters, every person in the state could be affected.
The little monsters can wreak havoc on water infrastructure by plugging up water lines as they reproduce quickly and cluster together.
This can affect anything from drinking water to irrigation to water treatment facilities, Dalebout said. It can cost millions to try to remove the mussels. Utahns would likely pay for the removal through higher utility bills.
Other issues related to the watery invaders include:
- Mussels remove plankton from the water column, the same plankton that support 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 their sharp shells can cut your feet as you walk along beaches where the mussels died. Their carcasses smell bad too.
Mandatory quagga mussel inspection stations are found at four locations in Utah.
Since the boating season began, compliance rates have improved at all of the inspection stations in Utah but those rates – especially at the station south of St. George – still aren’t good enough.
Mandatory quagga mussel inspection stations in Utah
- Interstate 15 port of entry near St. George requires all vehicles with watercraft traveling north on I-15 to stop. Compliance rate is 80 percent. The I-15 port of entry has the lowest compliance rate among the four stops, which range from 85-95 percent.
- Two stations are located at Lake Powell, one at the Wahweap marina and one at the Bullfrog marina. All watercraft exiting the marinas must stop. Compliance rate is approximately 85 percent.
- Daniels Canyon port of entry on U.S. Highway 40, just southeast of Heber City requires In this 2013 vehicles with watercraft traveling southeast, out of Heber City and Provo, to stop. Compliance rate is 90 percent.
- At two inspection stations near Bear Lake, one in Garden City and one in Laketown, all vehicles with watercraft traveling to Bear Lake must stop. Compliance rate is 95 percent.
Boats may be subject to a second inspection at Sand Hollow in Hurricane depending on where else the watercraft may have been used.
“We’re relying on people to be honest,” Melling said of Sand Hollow recreationists.
A quagga mussel was found in Sand Hollow in 2010. State officials launched a rapid response at the time to keep the menace from spreading. The little monsters haven’t been detected at Sand Hollow since then.
- “Don’t spread the STD of the Sea” website
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