How the DWR is controlling the spread of invasive mussels in Utah

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The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is working hard to prevent invasive mussels from spreading in Utah. Expert Nathan Owens joined Good Morning Utah to talk about what they are doing to prevent them from spreading.

To learn more visit the Division of Wildlife Resources website.

Included below is some of the information presented:

What can cut your bare feet on a sandy beach and can also potentially cost taxpayers millions of dollars by getting into the wrong waterway? If you guessed quagga and zebra mussels, you’d be correct.

In order to prevent the spread of these invasive species throughout Utah, several of the annual mandatory inspection stations have opened for the busy summer season. There will be more inspection stations this year than in past years. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah State Parks would like to remind boaters and anyone with a watercraft that they are required to stop at each of these inspection stations.

What counts as a “watercraft” and would require someone to stop?

Watercraft includes the following:
Motorboats and sailboats  
Jet skis and wave runners
Canoes
Kayaks
Float tubes
Trailers and vehicles that go into the water on a boat ramp
Other personal watercraft

“Basically, if it floats, it’s a boat,” Scott Dalebout, the DWR statewide operations lieutenant, said. “Anyone transporting any watercraft is required to stop at these mandatory inspection stations. We have been tasked with doing everything possible to keep quagga mussels contained in Lake Powell (as well as other infested waters outside of Utah) and out of the rest of the waters in the state. These inspection stations are conducted to eradicate and prevent the infestation of these invasive species.”

Where are the inspection stations?

The mandatory inspection stations at Lake Powell and at the I-15 St. George point of entry are open year-round. All watercraft traveling north on I-15 must stop at the St. George station. Several other stations around the state are currently open for the summer boating season or will be open once fully staffed, including at Pineview Reservoir, Bear Lake, Utah Lake, Flaming Gorge and the state parks with water bodies.

The station at the Daniels Canyon point of entry along U.S. 40 will be opening this weekend. Only vehicles that are traveling up the canyon with watercraft – southwest out of Heber City and Provo – need to stop. Vehicles with watercraft traveling the opposite way down the canyon – northwest toward Heber City – are not required to stop.

Mandatory inspection stations will be opening later – as staffing and access allow – at Fish Lake, Panguitch Lake and Joes Valley Reservoir. These stations will remain open during the boating season.

You can see a map of all the decontamination stations across the state here. 

What happens at an inspection station?

When a boater stops at a mandatory inspection station, Aquatic Invasive Species professionals will check the watercraft for attached quagga and zebra mussels and for standing water. They also examine boats to ensure the drain plugs have been removed and have not been reinstalled. They will also get information about what Waterbodies that watercraft has been on during the last 30 days.

What happens if someone transporting  a watercraft doesn’t stop at the station?

State law mandates that all watercraft stop at an operating inspection station. Anyone who doesn’t stop is guilty of a class B misdemeanor. Along with receiving a citation, the individual will be directed back to the station to get their watercraft inspected. A watercraft can also be detained or quarantined if the owner refuses to submit to an inspection. 

“Violations are addressed aggressively,” Dalebout said. “Even if you haven’t been out on the water yet, all watercraft need to stop.”

Administrative checkpoints

In addition to the inspection stations, DWR officials also conduct administrative checkpoints on various roadways throughout the year. These are different than mandatory inspection stations because all vehicles – not just those transporting watercraft – will be directed off the road. Then, the vehicles towing or hauling watercraft are directed to the operation areas for inspections. 

These checkpoints are approved in advance by a magistrate and require law enforcement officers to be present. 

“There are many reasons for how we’ve been able to contain quagga mussels to just Lake Powell,” Dalebout said. “Getting the necessary funding for the Aquatic Invasive Species program has been a huge component, as well as our partnerships with local water managers and other organizations. Our program includes these inspection stations, very dedicated staff educating the public about these invasive species and an aggressive law enforcement effort. The majority of boaters have also been very compliant and great to work with. Without public support, we can’t succeed in this effort.”

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