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DWR plans checkpoints to fight spread of quagga mussels in Utah

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Quagga Mussels

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The fight against an invasive species continues in Utah.

As part of its continuing efforts to stop the spread of invasive quagga mussels, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will again be conducting administrative checkpoints this summer.

What are quagga mussels

Quagga mussels are a freshwater species most frequently seen in Utah’s Lake Powell, with the floating mussels and shells sticking to boats. They can form dense, destructive colonies that encrust almost any underwater surface. Newly hatched mussels are microscopic and can be easily transferred to other waters without boat owners even knowing.

Quagga mussels can destroy fisheries, pollute shorelines and beaches, damage boats and other equipment, and can cost millions to control.

In 2017, state officials issued an invasive species warning, saying Lake Powell had been entirely infested with quagga mussels.

Earlier this season, DWR unveiled a new method to decontaminate boats coming out of Lake Powell to combat the invasive species.

When are the administrative checkpoints

As they did last year, conservation officers will conduct several administrative checkpoints throughout the state.

In September 2020, officers inspected over 16,000 boats for quagga mussels over Labor Day weekend. Dozens of citations were issued to boaters who failed to stop at quagga mussel inspection stations, including 27 at Lake Powell alone.

These checkpoints are different than mandatory inspection stations at water bodies and other areas because all vehicles, not just those transporting watercraft, will be directed off the road. By state law, DWR officials are authorized to conduct administrative checkpoints to prevent the spread of quagga mussels.

Vehicles towing or hauling watercraft will be directed to a separate area for inspections.

The checkpoints, DWR explains, are approved in advance by a judge and require law enforcement officers to be present. Conservation officers ensure people are complying with the requirement to stop at inspection stations. They also make sure all watercraft have been cleaned and drained appropriately.

Cleaning and draining, according to DWR, include making sure there is no water left on board, including in wells, ballast tanks, and lower engine units. The watercraft should also be free of plants, mud, and attached invasive species after leaving Lake Powell. Drain plugs must also be removed while in transit.

This year, administrative checkpoints will be held at the exiting fee booth area of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area near Bullfrog on State Route 276 during:

  • May 30-31 from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • July 4-5 from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • July 25-26 from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Sept. 5-6 from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Residents and non-residents transporting any watercraft are required to stop at the checkpoints and inspection stations. 

What counts as “watercraft”

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
  • Paddleboards 

If you have any of these with you, you’ll need to stop for these checkpoints, according to DWR.

What are inspection stations

Inspection stations are often located at boat launch ramps at waterbodies, but can also be located along highways. Only vehicles with watercraft need to stop at an inspection station. Law enforcement officers may also be present at inspection stations, but are not required to be, like with administrative checkpoints. 

When a boater stops at a mandatory inspection station, aquatic invasive species professionals check the watercraft for attached quagga and zebra mussels, and for standing water. They also examine boats to ensure drain plugs have been removed and have not been reinstalled. They will also obtain information about where that watercraft has been used during the last 30 days.

There are over 40 inspection stations located around Utah. See a map of inspection and decontamination stations here. 

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

DWR says 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. 

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