Quagga Mussels Threaten Lake Powell

Tips provided to keep these "mussels on steroids" out of the lake

Page, Ariz. -- An aggressive shell fish has invaded several lakes near Lake Powell. And Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists are concerned about the effect quagga mussels could have on the fantastic fishing at the lake.

Aggressive Invaders

An aquatic nuisance species task force determined in 1999 that zebra mussels would eventually cross the Continental Divide and infest waters in the West. The task force determined that Lake Powell would be the likely place the mussels would be introduced because of the many boats that visit the lake.

Since 1999 an active program has been in place to prevent zebra mussels from invading Lake Powell. Any boater entering the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area from east of the Continental Divide has been stopped at the entry stations to see if mussels might be hitchhiking on their boat or trailer.

Any boat with questionable credentials was given the option of a free hot water wash to kill any lingering mussels.

The program seems to have worked and mussels have not been found in Lake Powell.

Mussels did finally arrive in the nearby area, however. They've now been detected in lakes Mead, Mohave and Havasu.

The mussel that's invaded these waters is a close cousin to the zebra mussel. It's called a quagga mussel.

What the Heck Is a Quagga Mussel?

Quagga's have been characterized as a "zebra mussel on steroids." They prefer deeper, cooler water and can attach to soft and hard substrate. And they can live in more places than a zebra mussel can.

The problem with both species of mussel is how prolific they are. They can cover the bottom of a lake and its structures with layer after layer of shell fish. They can even attach to slow moving animals, such as crayfish. Nothing is safe. They have been known to form a shell reef more than a foot thick and deposit enough shells to close off water pipes less than 12 inches in diameter.

These shell fish, which can number in the millions, eat by siphoning water through their shell. Lake productivity is soon impacted as nutrients and plankton is siphoned off by these shell fish before other fish can eat them. This restructures fish populations. If mussels entered Lake Powell, the lake's smallmouth and striped bass fisheries would decline dramatically.

Mussels also discard waste in such a high volume that the bottom of a lake becomes fouled and its water chemistry changes.

Lake Powell is threatened by all of these drastic end results.

The mussel threat to Lake Powell has now increased beyond description. While mussels cannot climb over Glen Canyon Dam to enter the lake, the chance of boaters bringing larval mussels from the lower Colorado River basin to Powell is "almost" a certainty.

The only way Lake Powell can avoid this fate is if everyone who visits the lake knows about the problem and takes steps to prevent these invaders from making it to the lake.

Please do everything in your power to prevent mussels from altering the beauty and bounty that everyone currently enjoys at Lake Powell.

What You Can Do

* Drain the water from your motor, live well and bilge on land before leaving the immediate area of a mussel-infested lake.

* Flush the motor and bilges with hot, soapy water or a 5 percent solution of household bleach.

* Completely inspect your vessel and trailer, removing any visible mussels, but also feel for any rough or gritty spots on the hull. These may be young mussels that can be hard to see.

* Wash the hull, equipment, bilge and any other exposed surface with hot, soapy water, or use a 5 percent solution of household bleach.

* Clean and wash your trailer, truck and any other equipment that comes in contact with lake water. Mussels can live in small pockets anywhere where water collects.

* Air-dry your boat and other equipment for at least five days before launching in any other waterway.

For more information, please visit www.protectyourwaters.net and www.100thMeridian.org.