Wyoming reservoir to close to boats after zebra mussels found nearby | Wyoming News

A reservoir near Newcastle will close all watercraft after invasive zebra mussels were discovered in a nearby South Dakota waterway.

Following the discovery of mussels in Pactola Reservoir in South Dakota two weeks ago, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced Wednesday that the LAK Reservoir is expected to close to all boats through the end of 2022. The closure starts at 8 a.m. Monday.

The reservoirs are only 62 miles apart, and concerns about how quickly mussels can spread have caused Wyoming to shut down. Even in a microscopic state, mussels can reside in standing water inside a boat. Additionally, adult mussels are able to attach themselves to hard surfaces and survive up to 30 days out of water.

No zebra mussels were found in Wyoming. Authorities want this to continue because the mussels can harm irrigation systems, fisheries, power plants and other water infrastructure.

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“The recent discovery of zebra mussels in South Dakota at Pactola has dramatically increased the threat of aquatic invasive species to Wyoming waters,” said Paul Mavrakis, Fisheries Supervisor for the Sheridan Region of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, in a press release. “True Ranches has generously provided anglers and boaters with access to their private reservoir for many years. However, this new development requires us to act quickly to protect the reservoir and Wyoming from the potential introduction of zebra mussels.

Although the LAK Reservoir is not the only water at risk in the state, it does not have a checkpoint and does not have the ability to inspect and decontaminate watercraft. Additionally, the Wyoming Game and Fish reminded those on the water that taking care to clean, drain and dry items when moving between waters can also help prevent the spread.

“If zebra mussels were to be introduced and become established, they would likely reproduce exponentially, negatively affecting the fishery and potentially damaging the water infrastructure that the ranch relies on for irrigation,” added the AIS specialist in the area. Sheridan area, Reed Moore, in the release. “In the coming months, we will work with True Ranches to evaluate options for 2023 to mitigate the AIS threat to the reservoir and other waters in northeast Wyoming.”

Fears about the zebra mussel grew in March 2021 after the invasive species was found in aquarium decorations sold at four pet stores in Wyoming. Mussels have caused significant problems in other parts of the country.

Earnest A. Martinez