HEBER CITY, Utah - Officials are warning residents a new "STD of the Sea" discovery could soon cost Salt Lake County and Utah County residents millions of dollars.
Five Quagga mussels have now been found in Deer Creek Reservoir after samples were taken near Deer Creek Dam; officials said the waters aren't infested yet, so they are taking extra precautions in the hope of preventing an infestation.
Officials said an established Quagga mussel population could affect fishing and recreation as well clog pipes and water control structures that deliver drinking water to much of the two communities.
Starting immediately, officials said all boats must decontaminated before leaving the Deer Creek Reservoir in north-central Utah.
Jordan Nelson, aquatic invasive species coordinator, said the mussels can be detrimental.
"A species that is not naturally controlled and causes ecological and economic damage,” he said. “...Hopefully we don’t have an adult mussel releasing veligers [the term for the mussel's larvae], hopefully what we’ve found is maybe a boat that picked up veligers from Lake Powell or Lake Mead or some other lake that has Quagga mussels in it,”
Authorities found juvenile quagga mussels, called veligers, in a water sample taken at the reservoir. No adults have been found so far.
“We’ve found veligers in the past at other waters in Utah; with the exception of Lake Powell, mussel populations never established themselves in the waters where veligers were found. We’re hoping that will be the case at Deer Creek too," Nelson said.
Nelson said quagga mussels usually do not reproduce in water that’s colder than 50 degrees so, even if there are adult mussels in the reservoir, there’s currently little risk of the population expanding.
"Fortunately we have a good track record of finding these and finding out that no population has been able to establish,” he said.
However, he said that could change once the water starts to warm in the spring.
Steve Cain, facilities and lands manager for the Provo River Water Users Association, said the presence of the mussels could be costly.
“All of the costs of managing the Quagga mussels will have to be paid by water users or tax payers and the solutions will be fairly expensive over a long period of time,”he said.
Upon leaving the park, boaters must do one of two things:
· Clean and drain their boat on their own. - After cleaning and draining, a DWR or Utah State Park technician will place a tag on the boat that indicates when it was cleaned and drained. The boat will not be allowed to launch at another body of water in Utah until the boat has dried long enough to kill any mussels that might be in or on it. In the winter, boats must dry for at least 30 days. The drying time can be as little as three days, though, if the temperature the boat is drying in remains below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 72 straight hours.
"That dry time is really what kills the mussel," Nelson said. "We need them to dry out their boats completely. If they can't complete that, then we provide a hot water decontamination service,”
· Have their boat professionally decontaminated. - The service is free. A DWR or Utah State Parks technician will determine whether the boat needs to be professionally decontaminated.
This spring, the DWR and its partners, including Utah State Parks and the Bureau of Reclamation, will take action to learn whether adult quagga mussels are in the reservoir.
That action includes:
· Collecting and analyzing water samples.
· Sending divers into the reservoir, to search for mussels.
· Placing substrate samplers in the water. Adult quaggas attach to these as they move through the water.
· Surveying shorelines.