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Front Page » December 16, 2008 » Emery County News » Zebra mussels cause for concern for water users
Published 2,989 days ago

Zebra mussels cause for concern for water users

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In most cases having a little muscle is a good thing, but Emery County has the dubious distinction of having the first positive DNA tests for a mussel of a different breed.

The zebra mussel has been detected at Electric Lake. No adult mussels have been found at this point.

The Division of Wildlife Resources has been involved this year in educating the public about the quagga and zebra mussels. The DWR reported to the Emery County Public Lands Council and also Sherrel Ward organized a special meeting of all water users in the area to discuss the mussels and a plan of attack to stop their spread.

Cody Allred from PacifiCorp addressed the public lands council, he said since the press release on Nov. 18 which declared that genetic material from the zebra mussel had been detected in water samples collected from Electric Lake, they have been learning everything they can about the mussel.

At the Wildlife Board meeting on Dec. 4, the board recommended that Electric Lake be listed as the first body of water infested with zebra mussels. Since this listing Allred said PacifiCorp has gone into a reactive stage and will be part of the group involved in preparing a rapid response plan in dealing with the mussels. Part of the plan will include ways to prevent the spread of the mussels to other bodies of water. "We have pledged our full cooperation to minimize the impacts of the mussel. Mussels disrupt the ability to transport water and they clog up the delivery system. They impact the fisheries and compete with other fish in the reservoir," said Allred.

Allred said PacifiCorp has a sister power plant in the Mid-West they have been in touch with to draw from their experience in dealing with mussels. One thing Allred said they have learned is the mussels are manageable and there are treatments out there, with more research being done at the present time. One advantage in the situation at Electric Lake is the early detection of the mussels before they become a major infestation. Treatments have been implemented in the East and Mid-West where they have been dealing with the mussels since the early 1980s. Ultraviolet treatment is one possibility. Another thing Allred said they have learned is once you get the mussels it is nearly impossible to get rid of them.

Dan Keller from the DWR said treatments of small bodies of water seem to work well, but a body of water as large as Electric Lake wouldn't be feasible to treat because of the costs involved.

It is not known the source of the mussels in Electric Lake. Speculation included boats, water trucks or birds, but it isn't known for certain.

Allred said the quagga mussels have been flourishing in Lake Mead and were first detected there in 2007. They have spread rapidly. Infected waters now include, Lake Havasu, Lake Mohave, central Arizona project waters and two Colorado reservoirs. The infestation is continuing to spread, but the West is 20 years behind the Mid-West.

One advantage Electric Lake has in the growth of the mussels will be its elevation and colder water temperatures. The mussels breeding season will not be as long at Electric Lake. Optimal water temperature for mussels is 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. At Lake Mead the mussels have five-six breeding cycles a season.

Keller said the mussels cause problems anywhere they end up.

Keller said water samples were collected from bodies of water all over Utah for testing. The first test was under the microscope and if anything suspicious appeared then this water was tested further with the DNA testing at an independent laboratory. Suspicious waters also include Joe's Valley and Huntington North Reservoir. Huntington Reservoir, at the top of Huntington Canyon Scofield and Millsite did not test as suspicious. Pelican and Red Fleet in the Uintah's tested as suspicious.

Jay Mark Humphrey, director from the Emery Water Conservancy District said that since Huntington North gets water from Electric Lake chances are high that Huntington North is also an infested water. "What do we do? Do we restrict boating? This is a tough situation and a real problem," said Humphrey.

Keller said the DWR has undertaken the education of the public and the boat owners. One method currently under use is the decontamination of the boats with high pressure scalding hot water 140 degrees and a complete wash of the entire boat inside and out including: dock lines, storage compartments, anchor, live wells, bilge, prop, motor intakes, gimble area, rollers/bunkers, axle, hull, boat trailer and through-hull fittings.

Keller said one treatment for mussels is potassium chloride which has been shown to disrupt zebra mussel colonies. This treatment would be more successful like at the power plant with their intake water.

Even with treatments the mussels come back.

A formal plan of action will be worked on throughout the winter months and will be in place by spring.

Ward said there are some real concerns if the irrigators get so concerned as to shut down the boating and the fishing in area waters. "It could be a real problem to the whole county, we need to get a plan," said Ward.

New technology is also being perfected which is developing a bacteria which will kill the mussels. This wouldn't be effective on a large body of water, but in an irrigation pond or smaller bodies of water.

Keller said they are waiting for the labs to process DNA samples of the suspicious water bodies. These test results are expected back in January and then it will be known if these other waters will be listed as infested also.

In Minnesota when they first became aware of the infestation of mussels they were in four bodies of water. Minnesota became very proactive in dealing with the mussels and stopping their invasion. They hired biologists and through education and decontamination of boats using the infected lakes, the mussels have been held to these four original bodies of water which is remarkable considering all the lakes in Minnesota.

Over the next few months the interested parties will work on the response plan and develop a regional specific plan of attack. Keller said they are looking for input from the water users, the power plants and other interested parties.

The question was raised of where the funds are going to come from to fight the mussels. Ward questioned the Washington delegation representatives from Rep. Matheson and Sen. Bennett's offices on the possibility of federal funding. They said they would check with their bosses to see what can be done and will also research where the funding came from for the work on the mussels in the East. The Utah State Legislature provided money for the current year which was spent on education, signage and portable boat cleaning units which traveled around from reservoir to reservoir throughout the boating season just past. Lake Powell has a permanent decontamination station.

Mussels can attach to any hard surface. Samples have been taken from the Colorado River too.

The attendees at the water users meeting wondered how quickly the mussels spread. Keller said it's been two years since Colorado detected the mussels and they are now seeing adult mussels.

One method of combatting the mussels is drawing down ponds as far as they can to kill the mussels by removing their water source. A body of water like Huntington North could be drawn down and then treated with potassium chloride which could be successful in killing some of the mussels. Copper sulfate has also been used with some success but it also killed some of the fish when it was used back East.

The group discussed the need for each reservoir to have an action plan. The actions and definitions will be recorded in the response plan. Everyone needs to know what their part is in the response and which indicators will be a call for action.

Part of the action plan will be enforcement. The law states that after fishing in an infected water a boat must be cleaned either by the boater or professionally done before launching in another body of water.

Keller said these laws will be enforced. The DWR doesn't want to close waters to boating and fishing, but those determinations will have to be made by the water body operator on an as needed basis. Keller passed out copies of the state plan and he said the regional plans will have more details on each body of water. Most of the reservoirs main purpose is agricultural and agricultural needs will be placed first above recreation. The water users group will meet again in January to discuss the roles and responsibilities of each group and define these roles. Larry Dalton is the state program coordinator and he will come down in January to get everyone started on the plan.

Paul Birdsey, DWR, said that Minnesota has been very successful in containing the mussels to the original four bodies of water due to their control of boating activities on the infected waters.

Craig Johansen suggested they lobby the legislature for continued funding of the quagga mussel preventative measures and to make the legislature aware of what has been done to date and how important it is to get a handle on this right now.

Keller said they have plans for the program director to lobby the legislature.

All 65,000 boat owners in Utah were mailed a pamphlet discussing the mussel and how to prevent its spread. Billboards have been placed throughout the state to get the message out. The DWR has also been to boat shows to educate people. Everyone needs to be made aware of the problem because everyone depends on water. Keller said the boat owners have been very compliant because they don't want to see their waters ruined.

Utah has patterned much of their program after Minnesota's program, however, the "Rapid Response Strategy" was written by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Now that Electric Lake has been listed as being infested, it would be illegal to take a boat from Electric Lake and launch it at any other water body without first going through the decontamination process. The entire "Rapid Response Strategy" is listed on the Emery County Progress website; Here is how the decontamination process works. If a boater completes the do-it-yourself decontamination they are deemed clean and free to launch.

If they have been in a infested water body more recently than the recommended drying time, and have not self decontaminated, then the law requires them to have their boat professionally cleaned. That is why we have technicians at the boat ramps asking people where they have been boating, if we find that they are in need of a professional decontamination we can do that for them at the lake (free of charge) and then allow them to launch. (See attachment for state law and complete

Do-it-Yourself Decontamination: Boat owners must clean and drain their boat and equipment as they leave a water body, then dry it for an appropriate amount of time between boating trips at home.

· Clean mud, plants, animals or other debris from boat or equipment;

· Drain the ballast tanks, bilge, livewells, and motor;

· Dry boat and equipment for 7 days summer, 18 days spring or fall, or freeze the boat and equipment in winter for 3 days; OR Professional Decontamination: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' staff, including authorized volunteers, Utah Peace Officers, which includes Conservation Officers and state Park Rangers, and Utah Department of Transportation Port of Entry Agents, under authority of the Utah Aquatic Invasive Species Interdiction Act, and other properly trained persons, will decontaminate boats and equipment infested with AIS as per established protocols. This effort due to capitalistic opportunity is intended to induce proper decontaminations by private vendors.

· Wash the trailer and boat inside and out, including flush ballast tanks, bilge, livewells and motors with high pressure, 140 degree scalding water.

For more information about the DWR's Utah Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan, please visit this website:

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