Monday, May 24, 2010

Divers Discover Mature Quagga Mussel in Utah Reservoir

Hurricane -- Divers have found what appears to be a live adult quagga mussel in Sand Hollow Reservoir.

The reservoir is about eight miles southwest of Hurricane in southern Utah.

"After the divers made the discovery, two aquatic invasive species (AIS) biologists confirmed that the mussel appeared to be an adult quagga mussel," says Douglas Messerly, regional supervisor for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

"If it is an adult quagga mussel, there's a good chance more of them are in the reservoir," Messerly says. "And if that's the case, that's bad news for boaters, anglers and water users.

"Quagga mussels can do all kinds of damage, including clogging systems that deliver water and devastating fish populations."

The mussel has been sent to the DWR office in Salt Lake City. From there, it will be flown to Colorado, where two laboratories will perform DNA tests. The DNA tests will help confirm whether the mussel is a quagga mussel or another type of mussel.

"The Division of Wildlife Resources is taking this suspected sighting seriously," Messerly says. "We're working closely with Utah State Parks and the Washington County Water Conservancy District to develop short- and long-term plans to contain and manage the problem."

Decontaminating your boat

To lessen the chance that mussels are spread to other waters from the reservoir, on May 22, DWR Director Jim Karpowitz signed a legal rapid response plan notice. The notice is now in effect at Sand Hollow and at waters throughout Utah.

The notice requires that any type of recreational equipment that's been in Sand Hollow during the past 30 days must be decontaminated before launching at any other water in Utah. This includes any piece of recreational equipment capable of carrying or containing reservoir water or a quagga or zebra mussel, including any type of boat, vessel, personal watercraft, motor vehicle or trailer.

Also, all boats leaving Sand Hollow must be inspected for mussels and drained and cleaned by DWR AIS technicians.

"Decontaminating your boat is the only way to stop the spread of these mussels," says Lynn Chamberlain, DWR regional outreach manager. "The decontamination process won't harm your boat. In fact, it can actually help your boat by removing mussels that could clog your boat's pumps and hoses."

Chamberlain says there are two ways to decontaminate your boat after pulling it out of the water:

1) Clean mud, plants, animals or other debris from your boat and equipment.

2) Drain the ballast tanks, bilge, live wells and motor.

3) Dry your boat (seven days in the summer, 18 days in the spring and fall, and 30 days in the winter.


Get your boat professionally decontaminated. Certified personnel will wash your trailer and boat inside and out, flushing your ballast tanks, bilge, live wells and motor with high-pressure, scalding (140 degree Fahrenheit) water.

The DWR offers this service for free at popular waters across Utah.

"No matter which decontamination method you prefer, you should make a habit of completing the decontamination process after every boating trip," Chamberlain says. "In addition to stopping the spread of mussels, your efforts will also help limit the spread of whirling disease."

Chamberlain says the DWR will have decontamination units at Sand Hollow and will provide the service free to boaters as they leave the park. "Hundreds of boaters use this reservoir, so you'll likely have to wait several minutes to use the service," he says.

Regular dives

Sand Hollow is one of the waters at which the Washington County Water Conservancy District (WCWCD) conducts regular dives to search for quagga and zebra mussels.

Divers found the possible quagga mussel during a dive on May 21.

Kent Walker was diving with fellow diver Troy Guard under docks near the main boat ramp on the northwest side of the reservoir when he felt something suspicious in a crevice between two floatation buoys under the dock.

He pulled the item out and brought it to the surface. Michelle Deras, an AIS biologist with the WCWCD, and Crystal Stock, an AIS biologist with the DWR, were among several DWR, Utah State Parks and WCWCD personnel who were contacted.

After examining the mussel, Deras and Stock confirmed that it had all the markings and characteristics of an adult quagga mussel.

"At this point, we don't know where the mussel came from or how many are in the reservoir," Deras says. "What we do know is that we found one and there are likely more. We must take every precaution possible to make sure mussels aren't spread to other waters in Utah."

Sand Hollow Reservoir is still open for boating and fishing.

For more information about the rapid response plan notice and how you can prevent spreading quagga mussels in Utah, visit