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State seeks to stop spread of quagga mussels at Utah lakes

SALT LAKE CITY — State wildlife experts are urging boaters to use extra care this year to help keep most of Utah free of a mussel nicknamed the “STD of the sea.”

Scott Daleabout, an operations lieutenant with the Division of Wildlife Resources, said quagga mussels have already infiltrated Lake Powell’s waters, and officials don’t want them spreading to any other Utah lakes.

“We’ll never be able to get rid of it. Once it’s there, it’s there,” Daleabout said. “Whenever you are using any kind of watercraft, you have to make sure to clean, drain and dry your watercraft. Every single time.”

As the second driest state in the nation, Utah’s water ecosystems are complex,¬†and quagga mussels do a good job of messing them up,¬†Daleabout said.

“They filter feed and eat the plankton. It leaves less food and minerals for the other aquatic species. It completely changes the ecosystem of the water,” he said.

The DWR’s website states the mussels also:

  • Block water intake pipes.
  • Carpet beaches with their sharp shells.
  • Leave a putrid smell in the air as the dead mussels decay.
  • Plug water circulation systems on water craft that can overheat motors.
  • If they become established in Utah, the mussels are predicted to cost the state $15 million in extra expenses.

Snapshot from here.

The issue is so severe that state officials require all boats leaving Lake Powell’s waters to be inspected by trained staff.

“It’s to a point people are having to stand in line,” Dalebout warned. “We are limited on staff so folks are going to have to stand in line and be patient” — especially as Memorial Day nears, when state officials see a huge spike in visitors to all of Utah’s lakes, particularly Lake Powell.

“The water is a lot warmer. The fishing is good. The recreation is amazing, and it’s a huge lake. There’s lots of room,” he said of Lake Powell.