MUSSEL PROBLEM IN CALIFORNIA LAKES
Beginning April 1, 2009 all vessels entering Lake Perris will be inspected for Quagga and Zebra Mussels.
Only clean, drain, and dry boats and equipment will be acceptable for inspection upon arrival to the park
California is asking boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats to stop the spread of harmful invasive mussels. Properly cleaning and drying will also protect boats and help boaters avoid quarantines or being turned away from a water destination. Quagga and Zebra mussels pose a serious threat to our waters and fisheries. The spread of these mussels threatens recreational boating and fishing, aquatic ecosystems and fisheries, water delivery systems, hydroelectric facilities, agriculture and the environment in general. Boaters should be prepared for inspections throughout the state designed to help ensure California’s water bodies remain mussel-free. In addition to being sure to clean, drain and dry watercraft, the Department of Boating and Waterways urges boaters to plan for possible launch restrictions and inspections by calling water bodies http://www.dbw.ca.gov/maps/ before leaving home. Programs and requirements vary and can change rapidly.
The information below is provided as a courtesy by the State of California. For further information on the Quagga and Zebra mussel incident, please visit the Department of Fish and Game’s Web site, www.dfg.ca.gov .
Quagga mussels were discovered in Lake Mead in Nevada on Jan. 6, 2007, and later throughout Lake Mead’s lower basin. It was the first discovery of either of these mussels west of the Continental Divide. Subsequent surveys found smaller numbers of Quagga mussels in Lakes Mohave and Havasu in the Colorado River, and in the Colorado River Aqueduct System which serves Southern California. Surveys in August found Quagga in Lake Dixon and San Vicente Reservoir in San Diego County. All reservoirs, lakes and watersheds receiving raw Colorado River water have been exposed to Quagga mussels. The first confirmed find of Zebra mussels in California occurred at San Justo Reservoir Jan. 10, 2008.
Zebra mussels arrived in North America from Europe in the 1980s followed shortly thereafter by their close relative the Quagga mussel. As prodigious water filterers, they remove substantial amounts of phytoplankton, zooplankton and suspended particulate from the water, which reduces the food sources for zooplankton and small fish, altering the food web. With the filtering out of suspended particulates and phytoplankton, water clarity increases allowing sunlight to penetrate the water deeper triggering increased vegetation growth that can affect oxygen levels resulting in fish die offs.
Quagga/Zebra mussels accumulate organic pollutants within their tissues to levels more than 300,000 times greater than typical concentrations in the environment. The mussels’ wastes significantly lower the oxygen levels, lowering the pH to an acidic level and generating toxic byproducts. The mussels have also been associated with outbreaks of botulism poisoning in wild birds.
Zebra mussels heavily colonize hard substrates while Quaggas colonize both hard and soft substrates. It appears as though Quaggas colonize deeper than Zebra mussels, infesting a wider range of habitats. In locations where both mussels exist, the Quagga mussel appears to compete with the Zebra mussel, eventually replacing it. Quagga/Zebra mussels clog water intake structures, such as pipelines and screens, reducing pumping capabilities for power and water treatment facilities. Recreation-based industries and activities are also affected by the mussels which take up residence on docks, breakwalls, buoys, boats and beaches. For boaters, Quagga/Zebra mussels increase drag, clog engines causing overheating and can affect steerage.
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) urges boaters and water enthusiasts to prevent the spread of invasive mussels in California waters this holiday weekend. Anyone who visits a lake or reservoir should take care to clean, drain and dry their boat, watercraft or any other equipment that comes in contact with the water, both before arrival and upon departure.
“The law prohibits the possession and transportation of Quagga or Zebra mussels, whether on a boat or on any other item like a rock, bucket or log,” said Nancy Foley, DFG Chief of Law Enforcement. “It's crucial that anyone who uses public waters take the time to make sure they're not adding to the spread of these mussels. Just one boat can contaminate an entire freshwater body and destroy fisheries.”
Quagga and Zebra mussels are non-native, fast-reproducing invasive species that can cause severe problems for boaters and water enthusiasts. They spread from one body of water to another by “hitchhiking” on boats and other equipment.
To help prevent the spread of mussels, boaters should inspect all exposed surfaces, wash boat hulls thoroughly, remove all plants from boat and trailer, drain all water, including lower outboard units, clean and dry livewells and bait buckets and dispose of baitfish in the trash. Watercraft should be dried for at least five days and up to 30 days depending upon the weather between launches in different fresh bodies of water. These measures are critical to the state's efforts to safeguard boats and preserve high quality fisheries.
Travelers are also advised to contact their destination before they leave home in order to see what restrictions or inspection requirements are in place. Boaters and watergoers entering or returning to California should be prepared for inspections at state Department of Food and Agriculture Border Protection Stations. For areas where Quagga has been found or is most threatening, inspections may also be conducted by DFG and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Inspectors will check boats and other watercraft, and any items that might be onboard. Contaminated vessels and equipment will be confiscated and quarantined.
Quagga mussels were first detected in the Colorado River system in January 2007 and were later found in San Diego and Riverside counties by state and local water agencies. Zebra mussels were discovered in San Justo Reservoir in San Benito County in January 2008. Both mollusks can attach to and damage almost any submerged surface. They can:
- ruin a boat engine by blocking the cooling system and causing overheating
- increase drag on the bottom of a boat, reducing speed and wasting fuel
- jam steering equipment on boats
- require scraping and repainting of boat bottoms
- colonize all underwater substrates such as boat ramps, docks, lines and other underwater surfaces requiring constant cleaning
Mussels attached to watercraft or trailers can be transported and spread to other water bodies. Water in boat engines, bilges, live wells and buckets can carry tiny mussel larvae (called veligers) to other water bodies as well.
A public toll-free number hotline has been established for boaters and anyone involved with activities on lakes and rivers seeking information on the invasive and destructive Quagga mussels at 1-866-440-9530.
For more information on the Quagga/Zebra mussel response and what you can do to help prevent their spread in California, please visit the DFG Web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/invasives/quaggamussel .
Officials at Lake Perris State Recreation Area, Lake Hemet and Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area are making sure vessels and equipment are cleaned, drained and dry, or else visitors will be turned away.
The inspections are designed to prevent the spread of the rapidly reproducing quagga and zebra mussels, which can destroy native wildlife, damage boat motors and clog the pipes and pumps that keep water flowing to Southern California homes and businesses.
"We're trying to protect our resource for today and future generations," said Lake Perris Superintendent Norb Ruhmke.
Inspections had already been required at other Inland lakes including Lake Skinner, Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead.
The microscopic mussel larvae can survive in a tiny amount of water and then be transported from one body of water to another.
Quagga mussels have been found in 19 Southern California bodies of water, and zebra mussels have been found in one central California lake, according to the state Department of Fish and Game Web site.
Quaggas were first detected in the western U.S. at Lake Mead in 2007. Since then, they spread to the Colorado River Aqueduct, one of Southern California's main supply routes for imported water.
The mussels have reached two Inland lakes so far: Lake Mathews south of Riverside and Lake Skinner near Temecula.
Lake Mathews does not allow boating. But at quagga-infested Lake Skinner, watercraft are inspected before they enter and leave.
"They can't leave until they are as dry as possible. Our goal is to keep the critters from leaving and to keep from introducing more into the lake," said Park Ranger Jack Altevers
Lake Hemet in the San Jacinto Mountains is fed by rain and snowmelt, and water is released down the San Jacinto River.
"If you've got quagga mussels in the lake here, they will eventually end up going downstream," said Mark Perinsky, lake campground manager for the Lake Hemet Municipal Water District.
Employees inspect to ensure no water is present in the bilge, bait tanks or boat motor before allowing a boat on the lake, he said. Before a boater departs, an inspection band is attached to the boat and its trailer so the user may return without inspection if that band has not been tampered with.
Lake Hemet honors similar bands affixed by Perris, Silverwood and Big Bear lakes, he said.
Inspectors at Lake Perris and Silverwood state recreation areas check vessels visually and by touch. They inspect the trailer, equipment locker, motor compartment and fittings. If there is any moisture on the vessel or equipment, it does not get in the park.
"We check lifejackets, wakeboard boots and ski rope. If any of that stuff is moist, the quagga can survive," Ruhmke said.
Ralph Wynn Sr., of Hemet, said he didn't mind having his boat inspected last week at Lake Perris.
"It's time-consuming, but as long as people realize they have to take that extra time, there's no problem," Wynn said.
David Areyan, 42, of Wilmington, thought he knew the routine. His jet skis had recently been inspected at a lake in Arizona, he said.
But when Lake Perris quagga inspectors took a look inside the engine compartments, they found traces of water in both vessels and tagged them with a red quarantine notice.
"It's just tap water," Areyan said. "You mean I drove all the here to get turned away?"
Vessels that don't pass inspection at Lake Perris and Silverwood Lake state recreation areas are quarantined for seven days. After the quarantine period, boaters can have their vessels rechecked, Ruhmke said.
Metropolitan Water District, the Los Angeles-based water wholesaler that oversees the 242-mile Colorado River Aqueduct, has appropriated $10 million for capital improvements and spends about $5 million a year in maintenance costs to combat the mussels, according to Ric De Leon, Metropolitan's microbiology unit manager and quagga mussel control program manager.
"Since we started this program, we haven't seen any mussel colonies of significance," he said.
Water is chlorinated at Copper Basin, about five miles from the river, and at the outflow of Lake Mathews and Lake Skinner.
A new state law requires recreation lake operators to develop a prevention plan that may range from education to inspections.
At Lake Elsinore, which does not get Colorado River water, private launches and a city-contracted concessionaire distribute educational material to boaters, according to Pat Kilroy, director of lake and aquatic resources for the city. A regional watershed authority has hired UC Riverside to assess potential risks.
Since January 2007, invasive quagga mussels have been found in 19 bodies of water in Southern California. From lakes along the Colorado River, the mollusks invaded the Colorado River Aqueduct and spread west to Lake Mathews near Riverside and southwest to Lake Skinner near Temecula.
New inspections: Lake Perris State Recreation Area, Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area in the San Bernardino National Forest and Lake Hemet in the San Jacinto Mountains are the latest to require boat inspections.
The rule: Watercraft must be clean, drained and dry before inspectors allow them to enter lakes.
Where did the mussels come from? They are native to Ukraine. Experts suspect they arrived in the U.S. 20 years ago in the Great Lakes, from ship ballast water discharge.
On the Web: www.dfg.ca.gov/invasives/quaggamussel or www.100thmeridian.org .