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Lake Powell requires decontamination

Mussel find prompts order

If your Easter weekend plans include boating on Lake Powell, you'll have to decontaminate your boat before you leave the lake.

A mussel from Lake Powell.

Those who boat on Lake Powell must decontaminate their boat before leaving the lake. A recently signed decontamination order should reduce the chance that quagga or zebra mussels are transported from the lake to bodies of water in Utah.

Photo by Natalie Muth

An order requiring you to decontaminate your boat was signed recently by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Director Greg Sheehan.

The recent discovery of 14 adult mussels at Lake Powell prompted the order. Utah wildlife and state park officials say the order should lessen the chance that mussels are transported from Lake Powell to other bodies of water in Utah.

"We're doing everything we can to keep quagga and zebra mussels out of Utah," says Larry Dalton, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "If mussels ever establish themselves here, they could do millions of dollars in damage to water delivery systems. They could also affect the state's recreation areas and fishing, and damage boats."

Dalton says you can decontaminate your boat on your own, or you can have it professionally decontaminated. Whichever way you choose, make sure you complete a decontamination certification form. The form is available online.

You must display the form in your launch vehicle before launching your boat on any water in Utah.

Instructions on how to decontaminate your boat are available online.

Dalton says the decontamination order isn't just for this weekend. "The order will stay in place as long as there are mussels in Lake Powell," he says.

Clean, drain and dry

Quagga and zebra mussels move from water to water by attaching themselves to boats and other equipment that comes in contact with the water.

Cleaning, draining and drying your boat and any recreational equipment that comes in contact with the water is the key to eliminating the mussels. "You can do this yourself," Dalton says, "and it won't cost you a thing."

Follow these three steps to clean, drain and dry your boat:

(1) Remove all of the plants, mud or animals (attached mussels or fish) from your boat's exterior and interior by wiping the exterior and interior clean.

(2) Drain all the water from places in your boat where it may have accumulated. This includes the ballast tanks, the bilge, live wells and the motor. Even coolers that contain water from the lake should be drained.

The first two steps should be done immediately after pulling your boat out of the water and up the launch ramp. "Doing these steps should become as routine as securing your boat to its trailer," Dalton says. "Make sure you do them every time."

(3) Finally, dry your boat and all the equipment that got wet (water toys, anchor or tie ropes and the anchor chest) at home or where you store it for the following length of time:

Months Dry time
March, April and May 18 days
June, July and August 7 days
September, October and November 18 days
December, January and February 30 days

Temperatures that drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for three straight days will also kill the mussels.

If you want to get your boat on the water before the drying times allow, you'll have to get it professionally decontaminated. "Decontamination equipment is available at most of Utah's popular boating waters," Dalton says, "and the service is typically free."

When you get your boat decontaminated, a certified operator will wash it inside and out with scalding hot water (140 degrees Fahrenheit). He or she will also use the same hot water to flush the raw water circulation systems on your boat.

You can learn where decontamination units are located by calling a regional DWR aquatic invasive species biologist. You can find their telephone numbers online.

Video

The clean, drain and dry steps are also available in a video at the DWR's YouTube site.

Once you arrive at youtube.com/UDWR, scroll through the video choices until you find the video titled "Stop the spread of invasive mussels from Sand Hollow — clean, drain and dry your boat."

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