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Stay on guard; mussels still a threat

Summer is winding down, but the threat from mussels still exists.

Even though boaters are putting their boats away for the season, a nasty little invader could still make its way into Utah over Labor Day weekend.

Quagga mussel
Utah's boating season is winding down. But the threat quagga mussels pose to Utah is still very real.

Photo by Natalie Boren

And Lake Mead would be a likely source. Larry Dalton says the number of quagga mussels produced at Lake Mead each year reaches its high point in September and October.

"Lake Mead has more quagga mussels in it during those two months than any time during the year," says Dalton, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

"To avoid giving these mussels a free ride into Utah, boaters need to decontaminate their boats before they leave the lake."

The same goes at Sand Hollow Reservoir, Red Fleet Reservoir and Electric Lake in Utah; after boating on these waters, you must clean, drain and dry your boat before placing it on any water in Utah.

"An adult quagga mussel was found earlier this year at Sand Hollow," Dalton says, "and we detected microscopic forms of quagga and zebra mussels at Red Fleet and Electric Lake two years ago."

More information about how to decontaminate your boat — including a simple clean, drain and dry process you can follow—is available at wildlife.utah.gov/mussels.

Clean, drain and dry

Cleaning, draining and drying your boat is the easiest way to decontaminate it. "You can do it 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 them 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 amount of time:
Months Dry time
June, July and August 7 days
September, October and November 18 days
December, January and February 30 days
March, April and May 18 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 use the same hot water to flush the raw water circulation systems on your boat too.

You can learn where decontamination units are located by calling a regional DWR aquatic invasive species biologist. Telephone numbers for the biologists are available at wildlife.utah.gov/mussels/decon_units.php.

Dalton has two more reminders:

Decontamination form required—it's the law!

Before you launch your boat in Utah, you must fill out a decontamination certification form, sign it and date it, and then display it in plain sight on the dashboard of your vehicle.

You can get a form that's good for the entire 2010 boating season at wildlife.utah.gov/mussels/form_options.php.

Survey

Dalton would like to know your thoughts about Utah's Aquatic Invasive Species program. "We'd like you to give us your candid response by taking a survey on our website," he says.

The survey is available at wildlife.utah.gov/MusselSurvey.

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