DURANGO, Colo. – Boats that have recently been on Lake Powell are posing a serious threat of infesting Colorado lakes and reservoirs with invasive quagga and zebra mussels, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports.So far this summer, CPW and other inspectors in Colorado have found a record 43 boats containing mussels, and 32 of those came from Lake Powell which is infested with mussels. The previous record was just 26 boats.
At Sweitzer Lake State Park in Delta County, three boats were found with mussels during August, said Ed Keleher, park manager. He explained that boat owners were responsible and told inspectors in advance that they’d recently been to Lake Powell.
“That’s very helpful and we really appreciate people telling us where they’ve been because when we know a boat has been to Lake Powell we know it is at high risk for mussels,” Keleher said.
Where the mussels are lurking in the boats is not always obvious, Keleher explained. Instead of being easily spotted on the hull, mussels have been found on ropes, in live wells, on fishing gear, in buckets, on recreational equipment and on boat trailers.
“When people are leaving Lake Powell they need to look in all the compartments and at all their gear,” Keleher said.
Wakeboard boats are especially prone to picking up mussels because the boats’ ballast tanks are filled to keep the boat heavy and low in the water. Those tanks must be thoroughly cleaned and dried before launching in any Colorado water.
CPW’s message to boaters is to clean, drain and dry their craft. Boat owners should also do the same for all their ancillary gear. Wipe down ropes and other equipment and let it sit in the sun to dry out thoroughly. Those who have been to Lake Powell should also check paddle boards, kayaks, paddles and anything else that has touched the water.
CPW has a well-established statewide inspection program. The agency recognized early on that inspections needed to be convenient and accessible for boaters. Due in part to the inspection program and the cooperation from boaters, Colorado has remained free of quagga and zebra mussels. Over the years most of the mussel-infested boats have entered from the southwest or from the Great Lakes region.
Keeping Colorado mussel-free is crucial for reservoir operators and owners, drinking-water providers, agriculture producers and recreationists.
“Our inspection system is excellent and thorough. But we still need help from the public,” Keleher said. “If you’ve used your boat outside of Colorado, please make sure it’s cleaned, drained and dried.”