New rules for boaters in Utah aim to stop spread of mussels

A boat is decontaminated at Lake Powell. Photo Courtesy: Utah DWR

Utah, Feb. 23, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — A set of new rules has been issued for boaters who are planning to go out on two popular bodies of water in Utah.

The changes, instigated by the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources, apply to boaters at Lake Powell and Deer Creek Reservoir, and is aimed at stopping the spread of an invasive variety of mussels.

Nate Owens, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the DWR, said the Utah Wildlife board recently approved the changes to lessen the chance that quagga mussels are moved from Lake Powell or Deer Creek to another body of water.

In addition to stopping at all mandatory inspection stations that are open, boater must do the following to prevent spreading quagga mussels:

·         After boating on Lake Powell or Deer Creek Reservoir, you must remove the drain plugs from your boat—and not replace them again—until you get home.

·         If your boat has been slipped or moored at Lake Powell for two weeks or more, you must do the following before you leave the reservoir:

o   Call one of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) aquatic invasive species specialists at Lake Powell to arrange an inspection of your boat. In the Bullfrog area, call 435-299-9562. If you’re in the Wahweap area, call 435-592-9723.

o   If mussels are found on your boat, you’ll be directed to a private business at Lake Powell. You’ll have to pay the business to professionally decontaminate your boat.

o   If the specialist finds that mussels have attached themselves to your boat, you must also let the boat dry for the required amount of time—18 days in the spring and fall, seven days in the summer — before launching anywhere else in Utah. The dry-time requirement is in addition to getting your boat professionally decontaminated.

A boat is decontaminated at Lake Powell. Photo Courtesy: Utah DWR

Fines for knowingly transporting a boat that has mussels attached to it are steep: a Class A misdemeanor with fines up to $1,950 and restitution to the DWR for any costs incurred to decontaminate and quarantine your boat.

You can learn more about dry times by clicking on the tab labeled dry here.

Owens said juvenile mussels called veligers have not been found at Deer Creek since they were initially discovered in October 2014. If biologists don’t find mussels at the reservoir this year, the water will be declared free of mussels in 2018.

Lake Powell is a different story.

“Quagga mussels are spreading in the reservoir,” Owens said in a prepared statement. “We’re very concerned about mussels from Lake Powell ending up in other waters in Utah. The laws the board approved should reduce the chance that happens.”

Even if you’ve been boating on a water other than Deer Creek or Lake Powell, officials encourage you to pull the drain plugs on your boat and to leave them out, until you get home.

“Many boaters pull the plugs on the launch ramp or in the parking lot,” he said. “Once the water drains, they replace the plugs and travel home.”

Owens said the problem with that approach is water that’s “hiding” in the upper reaches of the boat. It takes a while for this water to drain. If you replace the plugs too soon, the water that drains will be trapped in the bottom of your boat.

“If quagga mussels are in the water, they’ll stay alive while you transport them,” he said. “If you leave the plugs out, the water that might have mussels in it will drain as you drive down the road.”

There are many reasons why the DWR and its partners want to keep quagga mussels, and their cousins, zebra mussels, out of Utah:

–  Mussels can plug water lines, even lines that are large in diameter. If mussels get into water pipes in Utah, it will cost millions of dollars to try to remove them. If you live in Utah, you’ll likely pay higher utility bill costs to pay for the removal attempts.

–  Mussels can get into your boat’s engine cooling system. Once they do, they’ll foul the system and damage the engine.

–  Mussels remove plankton from the water, the same plankton that supports fish in Utah. Mussels could devastate the state’s fisheries.

–  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.

Before the treatment happens, the DWR has liberalized bag limits at Pelican Lake so you can take fish that will be lost. There’s no limit on the number of bluegill you can keep. And the largemouth bass limit has been doubled to 12 fish a day. For more information, call the DWR’s Northeastern Region office at 435-781-9453.

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