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Utah Officials Police for Quagga Mussels

PHOTO: The tiny quagga mussel poses a serious threat to Utah's water supply and fisheries, so state officials again are inspecting boats to try and stop the organisms from hitching a ride to other waterways. Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
PHOTO: The tiny quagga mussel poses a serious threat to Utah's water supply and fisheries, so state officials again are inspecting boats to try and stop the organisms from hitching a ride to other waterways. Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
June 1, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY - State officials in Utah continue efforts to try to stop the spread of the quagga mussel, which is about the size of a human fingernail but presents a serious threat to the state's water supply and fisheries.

Matt Bartley, a biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says the state is inspecting boats near Lake Powell, which is infested with the mussels, to try to prevent them from spreading from the boats to other bodies of water. He says the tiny organisms can plug up major water infrastructure.

"The mussels are really efficient at reproducing and attaching to hard surfaces," says Bartley. "Those hard surfaces would be the water infrastructure; so the dams, the water pipes, the docks, anything that's hard and in the water."

Bartley says the mussels turned up in Utah in recent years, and that one adult organism can produce up to one-million offspring in a year. He says they also threaten fisheries because they compromise plankton supplies, an essential part of the aquatic food chain.

Bartley says boat owners should be sure there is no water or debris on the vessel after they leave any body of water, because the mussels can survive up to thirty days outside of the water.

"Clean, drain and dry your boat," he says. "Clean it if from all dirt and mud and organisms, plants, and then let it dry out. The dry time should kill everything that's alive, that's aquatic."

Bartley says state law requires that boats dry for at least seven days after entering an infested waterway like Lake Powell.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT