Council Urges Inspections at Lake Mead to Prevent Spread of Invasive Mussels

With the spring and summer boating season approaching, the Council recently appealed to the directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Parks Service to use a $1 million earmark in the 2012 budget of the Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a mandatory inspection and decontamination system at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Destructive zebra and quagga mussels have invaded lakes in the Southwest, notably Lake Mead on the Colorado River, and the threat that they will find their way north to the Columbia River by way of infested watercraft increases every year.

Since 2009, police agencies in the Northwest states have intercepted a large number of mussel-infested boats as their owners hauled them north in the spring and summer. The majority came from Lake Mead. The Council believes it's critical to have a containment program in place at Lake Mead before boats begin returning to Northwest waters this spring.

The dime-sized mussels grow hard shells and form rapidly into thick, mat-like colonies that can adhere to virtually any hard surface. These colonies rob nutrients from other aquatic species and can clog subsurface structures from docks and piers to water intakes at hydroelectric dams. The Bureau of Reclamation includes $1 million annually in its budget for Hoover Dam, which impounds Lake Mead, for maintenance of subsurface structures infested with mussels.