Quagga requirements lifted at Deer Creek Reservoir

Three years of prevention efforts kept this scene at Lake Mead from repeating itself at Deer Creek Reservoir. Deer Creek is free of quagga mussels. (Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

(KUTV) — The requirements to clean and drain your boat before leaving Deer Creek Reservoir have been lifted following news that an invasive specie of mussel is no longer suspected of living in the reservoir.

According to Nathan Owens, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, quagga mussels have not been found in the reservoir since five juvenile mussels were discovered in a water sample in October of 2014.

A news release states, "Because the reservoir has gone three years without further detection, effective Jan. 11, Deer Creek is no longer classified as a quagga-suspected water. And that means you're no longer required to drain the water from your boat, and have staff at the park inspect it, before leaving the reservoir southwest of Heber City."

Hard work pays off

Aside from Lake Powell, which has been infested with mussels since 2013, Quagga mussels have not been found in any other Utah water body since 2014.

“Our prevention and containment methods worked,” Owens says. “Decontaminating boats that arrived at Deer Creek from Lake Powell and infested waters outside the state prevented mussels from getting into the reservoir and adding to the problem. And requiring boaters to clean and drain their boats—before leaving Deer Creek—prevented any mussels that might have been in Deer Creek from being spread to other waters in the state.”

Owens says preventing quagga mussels from establishing in Deer Creek was a team effort. “This is a shining example of what can happen when boaters and government work together on a common goal,” he says.

The effort was aided by funding from the Utah Legislature and boaters, anglers, and personnel from the DWR, Utah State Parks, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Provo River Watershed Council and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.

“We want to thank boaters across Utah for completing the required certification forms before launching their boats and then cleaning and draining their boats before leaving the reservoir,” Owens said.

According to Owens, park rangers and staff at Deer Creek State Park are very deserving of the praise. “Over the past three years,” he says, “they’ve dedicated themselves to inspecting and decontaminating boats and educating boaters about the threat.”

During the past three years, staff at the park inspected more than 30,000 boats. About 2,000 of them were professionally decontaminated.

“The park also started a program that helped those who boat regularly on Deer Creek understand how important it is to keep quagga mussels out of the reservoir,” Owens said. “The program helped the boaters comply with the required clean, drain and dry requirements while reducing congestion and wait times at the boat ramp. The staff at Deer Creek State Park did an unbelievable job.”

Clean, drain and dry

Besides Lake Powell, waters in Utah are now free of quagga mussels and their cousins, zebra mussels. However, Owens advises all boaters keep their guard up. “The threat quagga and zebra mussels pose to Utah’s waters is still very real,” he cautions.

“Even though the requirement to clean, drain and dry your boat pertains only to Lake Powell,” he says, “I strongly encourage you to put your boat through that process, no matter where you’ve been boating. You never know where mussels, or any other unwanted creature, will turn up next. Cleaning, draining and drying your boat—after every boating trip—will help ensure you’re not transporting mussels from one water body to another.”

The easy-to-learn process, and annual education and certification forms, are available at www.stdofthesea.utah.gov.

Steve Bullock, the Deer Creek State Park Manager, says boats traveling from Lake Powell are the largest threat to Utah waters. “We inspect many boats that arrive at Deer Creek from Lake Powell,” Bullock says. “Boats that have been at Lake Powell for only a few days sometimes pull out with mussels attached to them. Without continued help from boaters, we could easily see quagga mussels spread across Utah.”

Bullock reminds boaters to complete and display the required certification forms before launching their boat at any water in Utah. “And boats that were last used on Lake Powell must still be inspected and, if needed, decontaminated before they can be launched,” he says.

Why the concern?

  • According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, here are some reasons why Utahns don’t want quagga or zebra mussels in 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 try to get the mussels removed.
  • Mussels remove plankton from the water, the same plankton that supports fish in Utah. The mussels could devastate fisheries in Utah.
  • Mussels can get into your boat’s engine cooling system. Once they do, they’ll foul the system and damage the engine.
  • 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.
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