Law enforcement officers and technicians from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), alongside other agencies, remained on high alert over the Fourth of July weekend, intensifying efforts to safeguard Utah's waterbodies from invasive quagga mussels. Their proactive measures centered on preventing the spread of these destructive mollusks from Lake Powell and neighboring states.

From Thursday through Sunday, Aquatic Invasive Species technicians, collaborating with Utah State Parks, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the National Park Service, meticulously inspected 18,831 boats statewide. They conducted 364 decontaminations, reinforcing protocols crucial to halting the mussels' spread.

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During these operations, DWR conservation officers issued 161 citations and warnings for violations related to invasive mussel prevention laws. Common infractions included boats bypassing inspection stations, failure to complete mandatory mussel-aware boater courses, neglecting to remove drain plugs during transport, and launching without requisite dry time or decontamination.

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One notable incident occurred at Strawberry Reservoir, where authorities intercepted a boater transporting live fish illegally, a practice strictly prohibited under Utah law due to the potential for disease transmission and ecological harm. Moving live fish between waterbodies or taking them home can result in a class A misdemeanor, underscoring the seriousness of this violation.

Lt. Bruce Johnson of DWR's Aquatic Invasive Species unit expressed gratitude to compliant boaters, underscoring their pivotal role in safeguarding Utah's waters. “Thank you to all the boaters who work with our staff and are cooperative in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species,” he said. Johnson also emphasized the necessity for all boaters, including paddleboarders and kayakers, to complete the free annual mussel-aware boater course. Additionally, motorized boaters must pay the aquatic invasive species program vessel enrollment fee to receive their mandatory decal.

Highlighting the broader implications of invasive mussels, officials warned of their detrimental impact on water systems, including clogging pipes and disrupting ecosystems. Quagga mussels remove plankton from the water, affecting fish populations and potentially damaging watercraft engines by fouling cooling systems. Furthermore, the sharp shells of dead mussels pose a hazard to beachgoers, causing injuries and emitting a foul odor when they decompose.

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Over 40 inspection stations across Utah facilitate compliance checks, ensuring adherence to stringent guidelines before watercraft can be launched. Boaters are reminded to remove all drain plugs when transporting their watercraft and to follow the recommended cleaning and draining guidelines, especially after leaving Lake Powell, the only Utah waterbody confirmed to have quagga mussels.

As the summer boating season continues, vigilance remains paramount to prevent the further spread of quagga mussels. Authorities urge boaters to stay informed and compliant with regulations to preserve Utah's pristine waters for future generations.

Detailed information on inspection and decontamination procedures is available on the STD of the Sea website, along with a comprehensive list of decontamination stations statewide. By working together, boaters and officials can ensure that Utah’s waterways remain healthy and free of invasive species.

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