HEBER CITY, Utah -(Ammoland.com)- It'll take less time to get your boat on or off Deer Creek Reservoir this year. After three years, the reservoir is no longer suspected of having quagga mussels in it.
Nathan Owens, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says quagga mussels have not been found in the reservoir since five juvenile mussels were discovered in a water sample in October 2014.
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
With the exception of Lake Powell, which has been infested with mussels since 2013, quagga mussels have not been found in any water body in Utah since the discovery at Deer Creek in 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 included 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 teaming together to keep additional mussels out of the reservoir.
“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 says.
Owens says park rangers and staff at Deer Creek State Park are especially deserving of 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. They professionally decontaminated about 2,000 of them.
“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 says. “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
With the exception of Lake Powell, waters in Utah are free of quagga mussels and their cousins, zebra mussels. But Owens encourages all boaters not to let their guard down.
“The threat quagga and zebra mussels pose to Utah's waters is still very real,” he says.
“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 simple process, and annual education and certification forms, are available on their website.
Deer Creek State Park Manager Steve Bullock says boats traveling from Lake Powell are the biggest threat to Utah's 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?
There are many 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.