Many Utahns are planning on taking their boats out to Utah’s lakes this Pioneer Day weekend. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials hope boaters stop to get their boats checked for invasive mussels, which are often called the “STD of the Sea.”
Officials are concerned because in some parts of Utah, like St. George, as many as 1 in 5 boaters bypass inspection stations. They say this creates a greater opportunity for Quagga mussels, a species of invasive freshwater mussels, to contaminate Utah’s lakes.
When Quagga mussels infest a body of water, they have the potential to damage boat engines, reduce the fish population, plug water lines and leave sharp shells on the beach. And it’s incredibly difficult to get rid of them.
“Thinking about all the different ways Utah relies on water, virtually every single one of those could potentially be impacted if Quagga mussels got established in certain key locations,” said Matt Bartley, an aquatic invasive species biologist at Lake Powell.
Lake Powell is one of two bodies of water that is infested by mussels. Biologists suspect that Deer Creek Reservoir, just south of Park City, is also infested. Bartley said it’s critical that people learn about mussels and take the responsibility to get their boats checked.
“Us being the government, we can’t, you know, be the big brother to the public," Bartley said. "They need to know what a responsible boater is, not only for themselves to do the right thing, but it needs to be a grassroots effort where they need to be talking to their buddies and letting the other boaters know and getting that passion out there.”
Adam Boehm, another biologist at Lake Powell, said boaters shouldn’t be nervous if there are mussels in the water, but should instead take the proper steps to keep them from spreading.
“Yes, we are infested with mussels, but it’s still a recreational body of water," Boehm said. "We don’t want to discourage people from coming to Lake Powell, but there are precautions that need to be had.”