Expert warns of mussel infestation, urges prevention

Halfway measures will get halfway results, warns D.D. Davis, of invasive quagga mussels

Judie Steeves

Morning Star Staff

Halfway measures will get halfway results, warns D.D. Davis, boat inspection trainer in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada — and once invasive quagga mussels are in your lake, they’re there forever.

So, she advocates taking severe measures upfront to prevent an infestation, in order to avoid billions of dollars in damage to everything aquatic, from the valley’s ecology to waterworks, bridges, boats and beaches.

Davis spoke at a workshop held in Kelowna by the Invasive Species Council of B.C.

In her neck of the woods, and in many other western U.S. states, there are mandatory inspections of boats before they can leave or enter a different waterway, in an effort to prevent the spread of both zebra and quagga mussels, invasive species that have already forever altered the Great Lakes.

Davis told those attending the workshop a new fish hatchery on Lake Mead had to be shut down because it couldn’t continue to operate under the infestation of quagga mussels.

As well, the mussels have gotten into the penstocks and they clog pipes, screens, gates and other equipment at the Hoover, Davis and Parker Dams, she reported, costing millions a year.

A ‘Don’t Move a Mussel’ campaign is underway  there, while other states run similar campaigns to alert boaters and all other water users of the danger of transferring anything from a wakeboard or fishing rod to a boat or scuba gear from one body of water to another without a thorough cleaning and appropriate treatment.

Because the Lake Mead area is a half day drive for 30 million people, it’s a busy recreation area, and a popular place for those who enjoy water sports, Davis noted.

Compliance with regulations regarding movement of boats is expensive so boaters are not likely to voluntarily comply, she warned, and commercial marinas don’t want to annoy customers, so they can’t be relied upon to ensure compliance, she added.

De-contamination equipment can cost a quarter million dollars, and it will sit idle without enforcement, she said.

All weekend boaters are asked to Clean, Drain and Dry every surface of their boats and equipment, including bilges in order to stop aquatic hitchhikers.

She advised B.C. to be proactive; to have a strategy ready, to focus on early detection and to learn from other jurisdictions where they already have the invasive mussels and have been trying to control them.

Consistency in messaging and ways of dealing with the problem would help water users to comply with recommendations regarding control and preventing their spread, she said.

Boat inspections where boaters are asked where their boat was last and how long it’s been out of the water are needed, she said.

She was impressed with the beginning this province has made to pass stringent legislation to prevent the movement of such invasive aliens, and to launch an information campaign to alert people to the dangers of their spread.

The good news is, Davis says she’s confident the valley can prevent contamination with the mussel with adequate effort.