Utah Officials Are Keeping An Eye Out For Quagga Mussels

Jun 2, 2015

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 is a biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. He said 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 said the tiny organisms can plug up major water infrastructure.

"The mussels are really efficient at reproducing and attaching to hard surfaces," Bartley said. "And 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 said 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 said they also threaten fisheries because they compromise plankton supplies, an essential part of the aquatic food chain.

Because the mussels can survive up to 30 days outside of the water, Bartley said boat owners should be sure there is no water or debris on their vessel after they leave any body of water.

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

He said state law requires that boats dry for at least 7 days after entering an infested waterway like Lake Powell.