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State Parks ramps up mussel fight

Provo — It just got harder for a quagga or zebra mussel to slip into one of Utah's state parks.

Utah State Parks personnel learn how to spray and decontaminate boats to remove quagga and zebra mussels

Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commissioner Wen Baldwin teaches Utah State Parks personnel how to spray and decontaminate boats to remove quagga and zebra mussels. State parks personnel from across Utah gathered at Utah Lake State Park for the training.

Photo by Scott Root

Personnel with Utah State Parks recently completed two days of training at Utah Lake State Park. They learned how to inspect boats for the invasive mussels and how to decontaminate boats if mussels are found.

Since 2008, technicians with the Division of Wildlife Resources have handled this task. A smaller force of DWR technicians will continue to inspect and decontaminate boats at some of Utah's most popular waters. But state parks personnel will now handle that task at all of the state parks that have waters within them.

Larry Dalton, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the DWR, is excited about the partnership. He says having parks' personnel handle this task will help ensure that every boater who enters a state park is contacted.

"Our personnel have been able to contact most of the boaters who have entered the parks," Dalton says, "but our people aren't at the parks as much as the state park rangers and ranger aides who run the parks."

In addition to learning how to inspect and decontaminate boats, state parks personnel learned how to train other parks employees to do the same thing.

"The park ranger aides who will do the bulk of the inspections are seasonal employees," Dalton says, "so they won't be stationed at the parks throughout the year. But all of the personnel at the parks will know how to inspect and decontaminate boats. So even when seasonal employees aren't at the parks, the parks will be covered."

"Our goal with this partnership is to get boaters on state park lakes and reservoirs with minimal wait time, while protecting our waters," says Utah State Parks Director Fred Hayes. "We feel we can better serve our visitors by taking over inspection and decontamination responsibilities at boat ramps."

Hayes added this joint project will enhance the efficiency of both agencies, and allow them to focus additional resources on preventing the spread of these invasive species.

Why the concern?

The following are reasons why you should be concerned about quagga and zebra mussels:

  • Mussels can plug water lines, even very large diameter ones.

    Dalton says widespread infestation by quagga or zebra mussels could cost Utahns more than $15 million every year to maintain Utah's water delivery systems. "That cost would likely be passed on to every citizen in the form of higher utility bills," he says.
  • Mussels remove plankton from the water column, the same plankton that support Utah's sport fish and native fish. The mussels could devastate fisheries in Utah.
  • Mussels can damage your boat by attaching themselves to your boat's hull and fouling the boat's engine cooling system.
  • When mussels die in large numbers, they stink. And their sharp shells can cut your feet as you walk along the beaches where the mussels died.

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. (The steps are also available online.):

  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: www.youtube.com/UDWR.

Once you arrive, 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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