Boaters, pull over for mussel inspection or risk ticket

Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officers stop vehicles with boats on U.S. Highway 89 for quagga mussel inspection checkpoint, Big Water, Utah, May 13, 2015 | Photo by Heather Talley, courtesy of DWR, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — As boaters eagerly anticipate Memorial Day weekend, Division of Wildlife Resources officers and biologists have issued a reminder that Utah has three mandatory inspection stations established to protect Utah’s waters from quagga mussels.

Quagga mussels at the Wahweap Marina at Lake Powell, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

If you’re pulling or transporting watercraft – including boats, personal watercraft (such as Jet Skis and Wave Runners), canoes, kayaks or float tubes – you must stop at the stations. If you don’t, you’ll likely receive a citation, and the officer who cited you will still direct you back to the station to get your watercraft inspected.

The stations will be in operation throughout the summer.

Quagga mussels are spreading in Lake Powell and have also been detected in Lake Mead, said Laura Melling, Sand Hollow Corporate and Gunlock State Park Manager. While lakes and reservoirs in Washington County are clean, Melling said, the contamination at these other popular lakes puts the county in a precarious position and makes inspections even more important.

It’s really critical here,” Melling said, “because we’re kind of stuck between Lake Mead and Lake Powell. … We are very diligent. We check every boat that comes in.”

Melling said when a boater comes up to their entrance stations, they ask where they were last and how long ago. She said:

If they were on waters we know are clean, we write down bow numbers and let them go on. If they’ve been at Powell or Mead or somewhere out of state in waters we’re unsure of, we check to see if they’ve been decontaminated and inspect them. If there is water in their holds, then we have them decontaminated.

This decontamination takes place at Sand Hollow and Gunlock, Melling said. However, a boat at Quail Creek calls for decontamination, it is sent to Sand Hollow.

Juvenile quagga mussels were also detected in Deer Creek Reservoir in a water sample collected in fall 2014, but they have not been detected in Deer Creek since the initial discovery, according to a press release from the DWR. If quaggas aren’t detected this boating season, containment efforts at Deer Creek will be lifted. However, caution should still be exercised.

“Boaters at Deer Creek should continue to be vigilant,” said Nate Owens, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the DWR. “All it takes is one negligent boater to infest Deer Creek and take us back to square one—or worse.”

Boaters in all contaminated areas – including Deer Creek – must remove the drain plugs from their boats and leave them out until they get home. Leaving the plugs out will help ensure that all of the water in the boat drains out as they are traveling down the road.

Locations

Mandatory inspection stations are located at the following areas:

  • The Interstate 15 point of entry near St. George. All watercraft traveling north on I-15 must stop.
  • The Daniels Canyon point of entry along U.S. Highway 40, just southeast of Heber City (near mile marker 22). Only vehicles that are traveling up the canyon with watercraft – southwest, out of Heber City and Provo – need to stop. Vehicles with watercraft traveling the opposite way down the canyon toward Heber City are not required to stop.
  • In Garden City and Laketown near Bear Lake.  All watercraft traveling to Bear Lake must stop.

In addition to the inspection stations, DWR officers and biologists also conduct administrative checkpoints along traffic routes that lead out of the Bullfrog and Wahweap marina areas at Lake Powell.

“The officers and biologists check boats for attached quagga and zebra mussels, and for standing water,” Owens says. “They also examine boats to ensure the drain plugs have been removed and have not been reinstalled. Citations are issued for violating any of these rules.”

Why the concern?

There are many reasons why Utahns don’t want quagga mussels, or their cousins, zebra mussels, in the state:

  • Mussels can plug water lines, even lines that are large in diameter.
  • If mussels get into water pipes in Utah, it will cost millions of dollars to try to remove them. If you live in Utah, you’ll likely pay higher utility bill costs to try to get the mussels removed.
  • Mussels remove plankton from the water, the same plankton that supports fish in Utah. The mussels could devastate fisheries in Utah.
  • Mussels can 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 their sharp shells can cut your feet as you walk along the beaches where the mussels died.

There are three steps boaters can use to decontaminate their boats. See video below courtesy of the DWR or learn more at STD of the Sea Web page.

Email: pdail@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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