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Wildlife Officials: Invasive Mussels Threaten Utah's Water Supply


Wednesday, July 9, 2014   

SALT LAKE CITY - Wildlife officials say a tiny mussel, about the size of a human fingernail, poses a serious threat to Utah's water supply.

The quagga mussels have permanently infested Lake Powell in southern Utah and threaten to spread to other water supplies in the state by attaching themselves to boats, said Jordan Nielson, aquatic invasive species program coordinator for the state Division of Wildlife Resources.

"They'll clog pipes. They'll damage boat engines. They'll disrupt the ecosystem," he said, "And in Utah, where we depend on water so much, moving it from one place to another, they can really foul our operations for being able to move water around."

Nielson said the mussels were first found in Utah about a year ago and have been in the United States for about 30 years. He said one adult mussel can produce 1 million offspring in a year.

Once the mussels infest a body of water, Nielson said, there is no getting rid of them. The state only can try to stop the tiny critters from spreading by such means as inspecting boats entering waterways, he added.

"We have technicians as you arrive at any lake in Utah that will ask you where you've been and how long it's been since you've been there," he said, "so that they can help determine if you need to have that professional hot-water decontamination."

As Utah entered the height of recreation season, Nielson urged boat owners to make sure there is no water or debris on the vessel after they leave any body of water. State law requires that boats dry for at least seven days after entering an infested waterway such as Lake Powell.

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