Boat Inspectors Busy Over Labor Day Weekend
It was another busy weekend for Law Enforcement and Technicians for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Statewide, aquatic invasive species technicians with the DWR, Utah State Parks, Arizona Game and Fish Department and the National Park Service inspected 4,299 boats and performed 133 decontaminations from Friday to Monday.
Of those total numbers, 1,194 of the boat inspections and 45 of the decontaminations took place at inspection stations in the Lake Powell area.
By comparison, last year DWR performed 14,712 boat inspections and decontaminated 174 boats over the Labor Day weekend.
The Utah Lake Dip Tank has been very instrumental in helping decontaminate boats in northern Utah since it was installed in May, and completed its 700th decontamination over the Labor Day weekend. It is the second dip tank in Utah.
The first dip tank put in to operation is the Lake Powell Dip Tank. It came online in May of 2021. A third dip tank to aid in boat decontamination has been installed at the Sand Hollow Reservoir in Washington County. It is expected to be in operation and use by the public in the next few weeks.
There are over 40 inspection stations located at various waterbody boat ramps, along highways and at Port of Entry stations throughout Utah. Visit the STD of the sea website for a list of all decontamination locations around the state.
Also you should keep up to date with boater requirements. New regulations went in to effect on July 1st of this year.
Quagga mussels are invasive freshwater mussels native to Ukraine and Southern Russia. Unfortunately, they have caused significant damage to aquatic ecosystems since their accidental introduction to the Great Lakes region in North America in the late 1980s. Since then, they have spread to other waterbodies in North America and Europe, wreaking havoc on the environment and local economies.
One of the most significant impacts of quagga mussels is their ecological damage. These mussels reproduce rapidly, forming dense colonies that filter vast amounts of plankton and suspended particles from the water. As a result, they disrupt the natural food chain, which can lead to serious consequences for native species. Fish and other aquatic organisms that rely on the affected organisms for food suffer, leading to declines in their populations. The balance of the entire ecosystem is thrown off, causing a ripple effect that can have far-reaching implications.
In addition to their impact on native species, quagga mussels alter habitats in the water bodies they infest. They attach themselves to various surfaces such as rocks, piers, and pipes. With their massive numbers, these mussels coat these surfaces, effectively changing the habitat structure. This alteration can reduce the availability of suitable habitats for other aquatic species, including native mussel populations and other bottom-dwelling organisms. As a result, many native species struggle to find suitable living spaces, leading to displacement and potential declines in their numbers.
Quagga mussels' filtering activities can initially improve water clarity, which may seem like a positive effect. However, the consequences can be detrimental in the long run. With clearer water, more sunlight penetrates deeper into the water column, promoting the growth of algae and aquatic plants. Excessive algal blooms can lead to a process called eutrophication, where the water becomes enriched with nutrients, causing oxygen levels to decrease as excess organic matter decomposes. This depletion of oxygen results in the formation of "dead zones," harming fish and other aquatic organisms that rely on adequate oxygen levels to survive.
The impact of quagga mussels is not limited to the natural environment; it extends to human infrastructure and economies as well. The mussels can clog water intake pipes and equipment used for water supply, hydroelectric power generation, and industrial processes. This leads to increased maintenance costs and impacts the functionality of these infrastructures, potentially disrupting water supplies and affecting energy production.
Quagga mussels have significant economic implications. Fisheries, recreational activities such as boating and fishing, and tourism are negatively affected. The decline in native fish populations and degradation of water quality can lead to decreased catch yields and dissuade tourists and visitors from engaging in water-related activities. Consequently, affected regions experience revenue losses and face economic challenges.
Utah boat inspections are an essential part of the state's efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) and protect its water bodies. Boat inspections are designed to ensure that watercraft entering or moving within the state's waters are clean, drained, and free of invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels. These inspections are crucial because AIS can cause significant ecological and economic damage to Utah's lakes and reservoirs.
The main goal of boat inspections in Utah is to stop the spread of invasive species from one water body to another. When boats and other watercraft are not properly cleaned and drained, they can carry microscopic larvae or adult mussels attached to their hulls, engines, or equipment. If these boats are launched into new waters, they can introduce invasive species to previously unaffected areas, leading to infestations that are challenging and costly to manage.