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Date: February 12, 2013

National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior

For Immediate Release: February 12, 2013
Release No.: 2013-05
Contact: Christie Vanover 702-283-2344


BOULDER CITY, NEV. - An aquatic species the size of a dime is costing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to boats and underwater infrastructure throughout the United States.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area staff and partners are teaching state agencies across the northwest how to identify this species and how to decontaminate boats so quagga mussels don't continue to spread.

"Before this training, I'd never seen a live quagga mussel. It was good to see it firsthand and really understand and know what we're looking for," said Stan Wong, the urban park concessionaires' lake manager for Lake Chabot in Northern California. "This is amazing training. I think Lake Mead is taking a good step to slow the infestation to other waterways."

Wong attended a Watercraft Inspection Training course at Lake Mead Nov. 14 to earn his level-two certification, so he could teach and certify his team back in California. The next course at Lake Mead, which will bring 10 students from seven states, is Feb. 12-13.

Wong said Lake Chabot receives close to one million visitors a year and is currently mussel-free. Representatives from other mussel-free lakes frequently attend the training, as well, to stop the spread through what David Britton called a multipronged approach.

Britton, the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Southwest Region, said the approach should involve inspections and decontamination; outreach and education; and enforcement of the law.

Quagga mussels were first identified at Lake Mead in 2007. Around 7 million people visit Lakes Mead and Mohave each year, and people are able to access the waters through more than a dozen launch sites. Lake Mead does not inspect every vessel that enters the water, but it does require slip renters to decontaminate their vessels before leaving the park.

Britton said he doesn't know of any other place besides Lake Mead that conducts decontamination efforts to this scale with the emphasis on protecting other areas.

Students who attend the training receive hands-on experience. They are brought outside to inspect an actual vessel that has mussels on the exterior and inside hard-to-reach areas.

"The folks that don't have mussels in some of the other states may not realize how difficult it is to get a boat decontaminated," said Britton.

Using one of the park's five decontamination stations, students learn to operate the equipment to remove mussels and sanitize the boat.

While these efforts are aimed at stopping or slowing the spread of quagga mussels, ultimately, it is the boater's responsibility to comply with the law, which forbids the transportation, possession, introduction or removal of an aquatic nuisance species. Boats found with evidence of mussels may be quarantined and boat owners may face fines.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area continues to educate boaters about the dangers of mussels through its "clean, drain, dry" program. Signs are posted throughout the park, and rangers continuously remind boaters to clean visible mud, plants or animals from vessels, trailers and equipment; drain water from motors, live wells and bilges; and dry areas with standing water.

"The goal here at the park is to make sure the mussels are all dead before they go anywhere else. Lake Mead is doing a pretty good job at doing that," said Britton.


Photo slideshow of the Nov. 14 training

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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