By RODNEY D. BOAM
Boat inspectors on Utah/Idaho borders are out checking watercraft for quagga and zebra mussels, invasive shelled creatures that can devastate bodies of water.
Kris Hatch, an eight-year veteran of the Franklin Soil and Water District (FSWD), said since the inspections began three years ago just south of Franklin they only found them on boats the first year. Since then they have been clear.
Hatch, a project manager for the district, said the first part of the season they are not as busy with inspections. But when the weather warms up things change. The inspectors get pretty busy, she said.
Inspectors are on the highway near a pullout with a sign directing out-of-state recreationalists to stop and have their watercraft inspected. They have the ability to wash with pressurized hot water on-site if they find a boat has been in a place where the water is known to have been contaminated with the shelled creatures.
Along the I-15 corridor, the inspection station in Malad found five boats with the hitchhiking pests since inspections started in April.
“It’s kind of scary, but that’s why we do what we do,” Hatch said.
One of the boats that came across the I-15 stop with the critters attached was bound for Alberta, Canada. The owners said they were told the boat was free of mussels. But inspectors found an infestation in the motor compartment of the boat. It came from Lake Havasu.
Lyla Dettmer, the district manager for the FSWD, said if they locate mussels on a boat they contact the Idaho Department of Agriculture and they impound it. “They clean it using hotter water and then physically remove the mussels,” she said.
In January 2007 the non-native quagga mussels and its cousin, the zebra mussel, were found in Lake Mead. These mussels are described by scientists to be one of the most invasive species in the world.
Sometimes they are referred to as “biological pollution.” Species like the quagga mussel can cause irreversible harm to the environment. Quaggas impact the food chain of native fish and other aquatic wildlife by decreasing the food supply.
In March National Park Service officials confirmed they found the mussels in Lake Powell’s Wahweap Marina. They found over a dozen adult quaggas attached to boats and a dock at a marina on the Arizona side of the reservoir. They believe the mussels were not close enough to one another to reproduce.
“Currently we have no quagga mussels in any of the ponds or reservoirs in Franklin County,” Hatch said. If we were to find some in our reservoirs, we could drain them and get rid of pests.”
This story is sponsored by Heritage Safe.
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