Over 16K boats in Utah inspected for invasive mussels over Labor Day weekend

ST. GEORGE — Utah’s battle against invasive quagga mussels continued over the Labor Day weekend as nearly 16,600 watercraft at Lake Powell and across the state were inspected for potential contamination.

Invasive quagga mussels, also known as the “STD of the Sea,” clustered together. The invasive species poses a threat to the ecology, water infrastructure and watercraft in the waterbodies it ends up infesting, Lake Powell, Utah, date not specified. | Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

According to a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources press release issued Wednesday, Aquatic Invasive Species technicians inspected 16,597 boats and performed 300 hot-water decontaminations during the holiday weekend.

DWR conservation officers and state park rangers also issued 31 citations, most of which involved individuals failing to stop at a watercraft inspection station, which is mandatory.

Failing to stop for inspections or draining watercraft can result in a class C misdemeanor offense in Utah, which can carry a fine of up to $750 and 90 days in jail.

Additionally, those are found to be transporting a mussel in or on their boat or other watercraft may get slapped with a class A misdemeanor under Utah law.

In the Lake Powell area, 1,530 boats were inspected and 127 were decontaminated while 27 citations were issued.

This year’s Labor Day weekend saw an increase in boating inspections compared to 2019, which came to just over 15,800. Decontaminations were around the same with 305 that year. However, citations are down this year, as 71 were issued across the state during the 2019 Labor Day weekend.

“Our officers and technicians have done a great job this summer working long, hot days to prevent quagga mussels from spreading from Lake Powell to other Utah waterbodies,” DWR Aquatic Invasive Species Operations Sgt. Krystal Tucker said in the press release.

We want to remind boaters and others with watercraft, including kayaks, canoes, paddle boards and other hand-launched vessels, that they are required to stop at open inspection stations, Tucker said. “We need everyone’s help and compliance in order to stop the spread of invasive mussels, so that Utah’s water bodies remain accessible to the public and continue to provide incredible recreational opportunities for everyone.”

Utah currently employs over 40 inspection stations across the state at various bodies of water and on the highway. In Southern Utah, these locations include Sand Hollow State Park and the Port of Entry at the Utah-Arizona state line on Interstate 15.

Information on where someone may have gone boating previously in Utah is also tracked, Candace Smith, park manager for Quail Creek State Park, previously told St. George News.

A Sign warning about quagga mussels at Lake Powell, date not specified. | Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

This plays a role in whether a boat or watercraft needs to be inspected. If there is information in the system that someone went to Lake Powell where the quagga mussel infestation is present, they’ll be redirected to one of the area’s inspection stations.

A map of decontamination stations across Utah can be found on the DWR website.

Quagga mussel infestation is considered a hazard by state wildlife and water officials due to the negative impact they can have on the native environment, water infrastructure and watercraft where they take root. They also tend to be known as the “STD of the Sea,” of a “Skiff-transmitted disease” due to their ability to attach to watercraft and potentially be carried to a new body of water to infest.

Issues that arise due to the quagga mussels, according to the DWR, include the following:

  • Plugged 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 clear, which can result in higher utility bills.
  • They remove plankton from the water, which hurts fish species.
  • Mussels get into a boat’s engine cooling system. Once they do, they will foul the system and damage the engine.
  • When mussels die in large numbers, they create a strong odor, and the sharp shells of dead mussels can cut the feet of people on beaches.

The mussels were found in Lake Powell in 2013 and have continued to spread throughout the reservoir.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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