Mussels: topic of discussion for committee
The quagga and zebra mussel working group met to discuss the changes in boat launching procedures at Lake Powell and how these might affect local waters if at all.
The hours open for boat access to Lake Powell will be from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. There will be boat inspectors on hand during these hours.
Daniel Keller and Larry Dalton from the Division of Wildlife Resources conducted the meeting. They asked the question how does the strategy to be used at Lake Powell relate to the waters in the area here. It was mentioned that on the waters here, they must be considered on a case by case basis. Most of the ramps are not gated for any closures. Dalton said any type of closures are distasteful to the DWR. He said most of our communities are 24 hour communities and when people get off shift, they are ready to recreate and people hate to see restrictions. "Any restrictions should be regulated by reason," said Dalton. Joe's Valley and Huntington North have both been listed as suspicious waters. There has been one test conducted at Huntington North so far this season and it came back negative. The waters at Electric Lake have not been sampled yet this season, because the water temperature is below that believed to sustain the mussels. Electric Lake tested positive for veligers last year. To date there have been no adults found in any Utah waters. Sampling of local waters will take place once a month throughout the summer.
The group discussed soft closures where a gate is just closed, but not locked, so people can still pull their boat off the lake in the middle of the night, but this type of closure would discourage people from launching in the middle of the night, before their boat has been checked and a decontamination take place if it's needed.
At Red Fleet reservoir they are looking at closing some access points and directing boaters to the main ramp. At Electric Lake there is a dirt road and access on the south side of the lake. This road may be blocked to restrict access to the lake on this side, to prevent small boats from launching without being checked.
The group also discussed the need for decontamination of boats after they come off Electric Lake so they don't spread the mussels to other waters.
Staffing is a problem when maintaining workers at these launch sites, to prevent contaminated boats from launching. They only have the resources to be there at certain times. Sometimes workers are at Electric Lake during the day and maybe check one boat in 11 hours time.
If a boat has been on an infected or suspected water in the last 30 days, it needs decontaminated.
Russ Finley said, "Let's figure out where we've had problems and look at the individual reservoirs separately. What success and problems have we had at each place. We don't want to fix a problem we don't have."
Kellar said, "The compliance at the reservoirs in the area has been good."
A man from California came just yesterday to Scofield. We let him know he couldn't launch until he was decontaminated. He was really good about it. Most boaters are good. The education has been effective and people are getting the message. I don't see the need for closures. The management in the future will hinge on the sampling this summer. We need to decide what to do if we get positive hits.
Finley said he would like to see tight controls so the mussels don't spread. The public needs to buy into the process and encourage compliance among boaters with some positive peer pressure.
It was mentioned the smaller boats and canoes which dry out easily are less of a threat than the larger boats with bilge pumps and areas which don't dry out easily.
Jay Mark Humphrey the director of the Emery Water Conservancy District is concerned with the costs of clean-up and containment if the mussels become established. The water systems in the county could be in jeopardy. Their contract with the Bureau of Reclamation states that the Emery Water district will maintain the water systems. If the systems become infected it could take millions of dollars to clean them up. Huntington North is small enough it could be treated chemically, but for a large reservoir like Joe's Valley that wouldn't be an option. There are also issues of recontamination as the drainages are so interconnected in the area.
Paul Birdsey from the DWR said they are sensitive to the ramifications for the water users. The DWR has tried to get out in front of the mussels. They have obtained funds from the legislature to fight the establishment of the mussels in Utah. The funding for a permanent wash station at Huntington North is looking good.
Dan Richards is the state parks manager at Huntington North, Millsite and Scofield state parks. He said at Huntington someone is there most of the time, most boats launch from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. There is some night fishing at the reservoir. He sees the greater threat as what comes down stream into the reservoir from the drainage than from the boats.
Dalton said no methodology is available to control the travel of the mussels down stream. In the Midwest the mussels have been known to travel both up and down stream. The flow of water does move them around. The mussels are flushed into the Gulf of Mexico, but they don't survive there, because it is too hot for them. "We will put up a fight to hold back the mussels," said Dalton.
The bacteria was discussed that kills the mussels by disrupting their digestive process and they die. This will not be ready before 2010 and it is not known in what quantities it will be available or what the cost will be. "That seems to be a hope for open water treatment," said Dalton.
In enclosed facilities, chemical drips can be used, another method of control is ultra violet light which is expensive, but kills them.
Dalton said there is a mixed bag ahead and they don't know what to do with them. "We can't defeat the mussel. If we did nothing in 20 years they would infect every water in Utah. If we put up a fight we can hold them back. Estimates are it would cost Utah $15 million a year, if they establish here. If we hold them back, it will save money," said Dalton.
Cody Allred wondered what the boat usage is on Electric Lake. A dozen boats launch there in a weekend's time. On the fact sheet the boaters sign, it gathers their zip code and asks questions about the waters their boat has been in. Another concern was the collection of live bait at Electric Lake. Birdsey said it is a class B misdemeanor to transport water and fish. They are approaching the legislature about making it a class A misdemeanor.
People are encouraged to take personal responsibility and clean their boats. If people don't comply with any rules that are put into place then they can expect tighter restrictions. Humphrey said, "Dan's done a good job at Huntington North, the recreation use should be there. Shut gates are not the answer."
The question was raised of when restrictions would be in place if they are implemented. Personnel is not available at the parks as much during the fall. It was mentioned the gates at the state parks are not closed at nights. If a soft closure of a boat ramp after hours goes into affect either a gate or cones would be in place, but personnel would have to be available to reopen the ramp during the open hours for launching.
There is a phone number available to report any signs of the mussels. If you've been on a contaminated water you can call the DWR and ask to have your boat decontaminated. The Emery County Commissioners pointed out the education process needs to be ongoing. There are still people out there unfamiliar with the mussel and the implications of an infestation.
Float tubes can be decontaminated with 409 cleaner.
Richards said most of the users at Huntington North are local people with an occasional out of state visitor. Most people have been pretty good about compliance at Huntington North. The key in the decontamination process is the 140 degree water needed to kill the mussel. All possible threats for transportation of the mussels are being looked at. Nobody knows where the veligers came from that are in Electric Lake.
"Hopefully after this summer, all tests will be negative. Maybe they won't take here. Everyone just needs to be responsible and educated. Take care of your boat. The implications of an infestation are far reaching. The boat ramps might be closed. We would have a lot of lost opportunities and ruined equipment. We must do all we can. We've all partnered together and are working for a solution," said Richards.