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Lawmakers declare war on quagga mussel

Published March 11, 2014 4:44 pm

New inspections • Bill allows wildlife officials to create inspection stations.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah House gave final approval Tuesday to a declaration of war against the quagga mussel, an invasive species that has been found at Lake Powell.

It voted 65-5 to approve SB212, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.

It allows Utah wildlife officials to create inspection stations to stop and inspect boats to look for the species. People hauling boats could face a Class B misdemeanor for failing to stop.

"We feel this inspection is now necessary to give better control of this," said Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, the House sponsor of the bill, adding the state wants to keep the species from spreading to other lakes.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area officials recently announced that "thousands" of adult quagga mussels have been found from Glen Canyon Dam to Bullfrog Bay, some 95 miles up Lake Powell.

The mussels have caused extensive damage across the country since landing in the Great Lakes in the 1980s. State officials estimate an infestation in Utah would cost more than $15 million annually if the 6,000 miles of pipes and canals and numerous dams become coated with the creatures.

The mussels can also severely impact fisheries, aquatic life and tourism as a result of sharp shells lining the beaches of popular recreation areas.

Greg Sheehan, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, recently said that with the new mussel infestation, every beautiful sandstone outcropping at Lake Powell could become encrusted with snails and the days of running barefoot on the beaches could be gone.