SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and other partnering agencies inspected over a quarter million boats across the state this year to prevent the spread of invasive quagga mussels.

The prop on this boat motor at Lake Mead is covered with quagga mussels. Mussels can clog the water intakes on a prop. That can cause the motor to overheat and can seize the motor. The result can be thousands of dollars in repairs. Photo date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

Lake Powell is currently the only Utah waterbody infested with invasive quagga mussels. Statewide, aquatic invasive species technicians with the DWR, Utah State Parks, Arizona Game and Fish Department and the National Park Service have inspected 268,630 boats and performed 6,625 decontaminations since Jan. 1. Of those total numbers, 64,341 of the boat inspections and 1,584 of the decontaminations took place at stations in the Lake Powell area.

This was an increase from the 248,774 boats inspected statewide last year, 4,376 of which were decontaminated.

The three dip tanks in Utah — located at the Stateline Ramp at Lake Powell, at Utah Lake and at Sand Hollow Reservoir in Hurricane — performed 1,000 of the total boat decontaminations. The Utah Lake and Sand Hollow dip tanks were both installed this year, and the Utah Lake dip tank performed the bulk of the decontaminations, with 844. The dip tank located at Lake Powell is undergoing upgrades and will again be running before next year’s boating season.

“The dip tanks continue to be invaluable in improving efficiency for our decontaminations of complex boats,” DWR Aquatic Invasive Species Lt. Bruce Johnson said. “To help in these efforts, we have plans to install a dip tank at Willard Bay that should be operational for next year’s boating season. We also have dip tank installations planned for Pineview and Flaming Gorge reservoirs.”

This year, DWR conservation officers issued 455 citations and warning citations for violations of Utah laws established to prevent the spread of invasive mussels, a decrease from the 588 violations detected in 2022.

The majority of the violations were due to:

Boaters not taking the mandatory education course and not displaying the certification form
Boaters and those with other watercraft (like waverunners, paddleboards and kayaks) failing to stop at mandatory inspection stations throughout the state.
Boaters not removing drain plugs during transport

“Overall, our boaters have been very compliant in helping to ensure that aquatic invasive species don’t spread in Utah,” Johnson said. “We really appreciate everyone’s efforts. And while the boating season is winding down for the year, make sure to plan ahead for next year and be sure to take the mandatory education course, pay the required fees, and display the necessary decals on your watercraft, so you can be ready for a great boating season next year.”

This mussel was found on a boat at Lake Powell in 2016. If attached mussels are found on your boat this year, you’ll have to get it decontaminated and allow it to dry for the required length of time. Photo date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

Boaters should also remember that the required dry time in the summer is seven days, 18 days during fall and 30 days during the winter. Wakeboard boats are defined as complex boats, which always require a 30-day dry time, unless they are properly decontaminated.

“During the winter season, there aren’t many available watercraft inspection staff at the stations across the state,” Johnson said. “So we ask boaters going to Lake Powell — or to neighboring states’ mussel-infested waterbodies — to please either have their watercraft decontaminated at that location before leaving, or to call us ahead of time if they are going to need a decontamination before their next launch.”

Problems associated with quagga mussels

They plug water lines, even lines that are large in diameter.
If they get into water delivery systems in Utah, it will cost millions of dollars annually to remove them and keep the pipes free, which can result in higher utility bills.
They remove plankton from the water, which hurts fish species in Utah.
Mussels 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 the sharp shells of dead mussels also cut your feet as you walk along the beaches.

Visit the STD of the Sea website for further information regarding boater requirements.