Over 14,000 boats inspected for quagga mussels over Labor Day weekend – St George News

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Quagga mussels are shown underwater at Lake Powell, Utah, circa 2015 | Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

ST. GEORGE- Law enforcement officers and technicians from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and other agencies ended the summer boating season with a busy Labor Day holiday weekend , working to stop invasive quagga mussels from spreading in Utah’s lakes and reservoirs.

Utah Department of Wildlife Resources and Partners Announce Breakthrough Method to Decontaminate Boats and Eliminate Quagga Mussels, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of DWR, St. George News

Statewide, aquatic invasive species technicians from DWR, Utah State Parks, the Arizona Department of Game and Fisheries and the National Park Service inspected 14,712 boats and conducted 174 decontaminations from Friday to Monday, according to a press release published by the DWR. Over Labor Day weekend last year, 12,369 inspections were completed statewide and 222 boats were decontaminated.

Of that total number this year, 2,798 boat inspections and 44 decontaminations took place at stations in the Lake Powell area. Lake Powell is the only body of water in Utah currently infested with quagga mussels.

“We want to remind boaters that all watercraft leaving Lake Powell must be inspected on exit during inspection station hours,” DWR Aquatic Invasive Species Lt. Bruce Johnson said in the press release. .

Besides boats, watercraft include kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and inflatable rafts.

“And it’s important to remember that inspections are not the same as decontamination,” Johnson added. “Once a boat has been inspected, it still needs to be decontaminated before it can be launched on a different body of water. If decontamination cannot be performed, the watercraft must wait the required drying time before returning to the water.

A Utah Wildlife Resources Division staff member inspects a boat for signs of quagga mussels at a Lake Powell boat inspection station, date unspecified. | Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

The required dry times in Utah after boating at Lake Powell are seven days in summer, 18 days in fall and spring, or 30 days in winter. However, wakeboard boats are defined as complex boats, which always require a 30 day drying time – regardless of the time of year – unless properly decontaminated.

Statewide, DWR conservation officers have issued 44 citations for violating Utah laws established to prevent the spread of invasive mussels. The majority of infractions were due to people with a boat not stopping at mandatory inspection stations and not removing a drain plug while the boat was being transported.

“Boaters who fail to present their watercraft for inspection are subject to a citation and fines of up to $680,” Johnson said. “Removing the drain plug during transport has a law since 2020. This law was created to prevent the exchange of water from one lake to another and to prevent the spread of any invasive species. Anyone who fails to remove their drain plug during transport could be prosecuted for a Class C misdemeanor.”

There are over 40 inspection stations located in various bodies of water and along Utah highways. Visit the Utah Department of Natural Resources website for a list of all decontamination stations throughout the state.

“We’ve had a staff shortage this year, and our employees are working as fast as they can, but we ask for everyone’s patience and compliance to get the required inspections done,” Johnson said. “We’re doing more with a lot less staff at Lake Powell this year.”

If you need decontamination, Johnson said to call and schedule one ahead of time, as their limited staff may not be able to accommodate those who don’t have an appointment.

“As mentioned, you can also wait the required drying time before heading out to another body of water,” he said. “Always clean, drain and dry.”

Why Quagga Mussels Are Bad

  • They clog water pipes, even large diameter pipes.
  • If they get into Utah’s water distribution systems, it will cost millions of dollars a year to remove them and keep the pipes free, which can lead to higher utility bills.
  • They remove plankton from the water, which harms Utah’s fish species.
  • The molds get into your boat’s engine cooling system. Once they do, they will clog up the system and damage the engine.
  • When the mussels die in large numbers, they stink and the sharp shells of the dead mussels also cut your feet when you walk along the beaches.

Earnest A. Martinez