Two tiny, aquatic critters have devastated fishing waters, plugged water delivery systems and ruined boats all across the nation, but so far, efforts in Utah have largely prevented the spread of quagga and zebra mussels.
In 2007, the Division of Wildlife Resources, the Utah Legislature and several statewide partners launched a massive effort to keep mussels from invading Utah’s lakes and reservoirs. The mussels are mainly spread from one body of water to another by hitching a ride on boats.
Since 2007, evidence that quagga or zebra mussels might be in Utah has been found in eight waters. However, as of this month, only one of those waters — Sand Hollow Reservoir near St. George — is still classified as possibly having mussels in it, said Larry Dalton, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the DWR.
Lake Powell has not shown any evidence of quagga or zebra mussels since inconclusive evidence that mussels might be in the reservoir was found in 2007.
Inconclusive evidence that mussels might be in Joe’s Valley Reservoir, Huntington North Reservoir, Pelican Lake and Midview Reservoir was found in 2008, but DNA testing failed to confirm the actual presence of quagga or zebra mussels.
Since 2008, no DNA evidence or evidence of mussels has been found in any of these waters. That year, DNA testing did confirm that juvenile mussels were present in Electric Lake and Red Fleet Reservoir, but no evidence has been found since that time.
Dalton said strict adherence to boat decontamination rules has helped prevent the spread of mussels, which have become a major problem in waters as close as Nevada’s Lake Mead. Boaters in Utah can’t launch their boats unless the boats have been properly decontaminated to kill any mussels that might have attached themselves.
He said stepped-up efforts have also allowed biologists to detect the presence of mussels early in a body of water.
“If we find mussels quick enough,” he said, “we can take measures that will lessen the chance that more mussels are introduced to the water. If we can prevent additional mussels from being introduced to the water, the mussel population that’s already in the water may die off.”
He said widespread infestation by quagga or zebra mussels could cost Utahns more than $15 million every year to maintain the state’s water delivery systems.