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‘STD of the Sea’ found on dozens of boats in Wasatch Back

[FILE] A photo from 2020 shows quagga mussels removed from a house boat in Utah.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
A photo from 2020 shows quagga mussels removed from a house boat in Utah.

Inspectors recently checked for invasive quagga mussels around the state, nicknamed the “STD of the Sea.” They found many contaminated boats at popular lakes in Wasatch County.

Quagga mussels may look harmless: tiny mollusks inside shells up to about 1.5 inches wide.

But, the people in charge of state water bodies see them as one of the biggest threats to ecosystems, reservoir infrastructure and boats.

Bruce Johnson is the aquatic invasive species lieutenant for the Division of Wildlife Resources. He says the main risk with quagga mussels is that they can block the flow of water through reservoirs.

“And that impacts not just a boater or recreator, but that'll impact the water users all along the Wasatch Front potentially because they'll have potential water restrictions and they'll have increased costs from those water companies and the providers to continually clean out all the water lines,” he said.

He said right now, Lake Powell is the only infested water body in Utah. If the mussels reach another one, he said it would cost water providers an extra $25 million a year or more to deliver it to customers.

[FILE] A man sprays two wave runners at a decontamination station near Lake Powell.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
[FILE] A man sprays two wave runners at a decontamination station near Lake Powell.

Last weekend, officers inspected nearly 15,000 boats statewide, and nearly a quarter of those were in Wasatch County and Summit County.

Out of 250 boats that had to be decontaminated, 75 were at stations in Wasatch County, including Jordanelle, Deer Creek and Strawberry reservoirs. There were six at Echo Reservoir and Rockport Reservoir in Summit County.

Johnson said the zebra mussel is another invasive species boats have recently brought to Utah from the midwest.

He also said not every boat considered contaminated has live, adult mussels attached. Sometimes, it’s just a shell fragment in filtration systems.

Johnson shared some general advice for boaters who don’t want to hit snags at inspection points and delay their fun on the water.

“Remember to clean, drain and dry,” he said. “Clean that boat, drain it, pull all the drain plugs required by law. Also, pull the sea strainers, leave those removed. That way, there's no opportunity for those potential quagga shells to collect in that sea strainer. And then, allow it to dry. If you can go to seven days in the summer to let it dry, that is great.”

He said some boats require much longer to dry.

Statewide over the weekend, 25 people received tickets for not stopping at inspection stations, or failing to take the mandatory mussel-aware boater program course and pay the associated aquatic invasive species fee.

More information and boater guides are available here.

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