LAKE POWELL, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – The state is fighting to prevent the spread of invasive species into more Utah waterways. That includes new laws to protect the water, but not everyone is following them.
Higher water levels will prevent you from seeing the quagga mussel infestation at Lake Powell this year, but it’s obviously here noted on the bottom of buoys. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. This year, a few Utah laws have been amended regarding these guys.
Mussels are flexing at Lake Powell, but it’s not the “suns out, guns out” type. The focus of boaters is narrowed in on this year’s water.
“It’s so fun having the water up higher and just the beauty all around. The cliffs, the water, it’s something magical for sure,” said Ashley Hillyard, St. George resident.
The scenery is majestic, but it’s threatened. Increased water levels are hiding a dirty little secret: one that puts the red rock arches and colorful canyons at risk.
“What it means for the mussels is more habitat. Depending on how long the water is sustained will determine how many mussels or how high we will see them next year once the water drops again,” said Collen Allen, aquatic invasive species coordinator with Glen Canyon Recreation Area.
The Quagga Mussel: It’s an invasive species getting the chance to alter our iconic Lake Powell landscape. It’s something that breaks Allen’s heart. She fought to keep mussels out of the area and not fights to keep them in.
She knows even after the organism dies, the shells left behind stick to the sandstone.
“Over time, they will fall off they will dissipate. The heat, the sun, they dry out, they disintegrate, but they will likely be scarred,” said Allen.
Scaring nobody wants. It’s what the state has been fighting for years to prevent at other Utah bodies of water. This year prevention takes another step.
Clean, drain and dry is the key. Now it’s mandated to clear contaminate water and just pull your boat plug, but leave it pulled during transport.
“If you put your plug back in, your boat jostled around, you have water up inside coming to the back and then it can be discharged into other bodies of water,” said Allen.
So keep the plug pulled. The other law change is something the state’s faced problems with.
“Utah has implemented new laws and regulations, that require all boaters leaving an infested body of water, like Lake Powell, to stop at the inspection station when open and operating,” said Allen.
Boaters have ignored, avoided and sped by and downright declined to stop at check points. The process is fairly speedy. It’s a jumpstart to the clean, drain and dry process and allows your boat to get tagged for clearance to be in other bodies of water.
You would think that would encourage everyone to stop, but if it doesn’t.
“There are fines. they can be from $300-$700 and even a class A misdemeanor, and potentially an in person visit to the judge,” said Allen.
Boaters can also face fines for transporting the quagga mussel and infecting another reservoir or lake. Deer Creek Reservoir is the only other spot where the invasive species is suspected.
At this point, prevention has been a success, but Lake Powell rangers don’t want to see any other spot deal with this H20 headache.
“The state of Utah has a huge partnership with us at Glen Canyon, we work in conjunction on the launch ramps and higher level meetings and such, to put out resources together to stop the spread of these nasty invasive species,” said Allen.