August 2, 2008

No More Mussels Found: Nearly 19,000 Inspections Have Turned Up No New Invaders.

By Chris Woodka, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

Aug. 2--If they're in there, they're still hiding.

After nearly 19,000 inspections at Lake Pueblo in the past three months, no new evidence of zebra mussels has surfaced. Periodic sweeps of the lake and others in the state by the Division of Wildlife turned up larvae of quagga mussels at Lake Granby, but nothing so far at Lake Pueblo.

That doesn't mean the rangers or wildlife officers will stop looking.

"The inspections will continue as we have been doing," said Brad Henley, assistant ranger at Lake Pueblo State Park. "As we continue, there will be similar procedures at John Martin and other lakes in Southeastern Colorado."

The state received an appropriation of $7.2 million this year from lawmakers to inspect boats and educate the public about zebra mussels. Meanwhile, municipalities, the Parks Service and others that operate boating operations around the state either have put similar programs in place or are planning them.

Boaters have adjusted well, Henley said.

"Of the 18,883 boats we've checked to date, there have been less than 10 complaints," Henley said. "Return users know the process. They pull into the area, leave everything open and do what they can to speed things up. The compliance level has been phenomenal."

So far, only five boats have been decontaminated. A portable high-temperature boat wash was put in this week at Lake Pueblo, and will be replaced later this month with a permanent wash.

One boat was being brought into the state from Michigan and had dead zebra mussels on the outside. The others have had suspicious black spots on them, about the size of ground pepper. That description matches the larvae -- called veligers -- inspectors are hunting. However, a lab analysis of the spots determined they were plant-based, not animals, Henley said.

Zebra mussels were first found in Colorado on a substrate device -- a piece of plastic pipe tied to a rope -- at Lake Pueblo in November, and veligers were confirmed in January. The state had been looking since 2004, after zebra mussels were found in Kansas. As water temperatures warmed, officials feared the mussels would begin breeding again.

Quagga mussels began appearing in reservoirs along the Colorado River in 2007. Slightly larger than zebra mussels, they also live in deeper, cooler water and are breeding more often.

Both mussels are invasive species that can cover surfaces of boats, structures and gates in lakes. They can clog water pipes and harm aquatic habitat.

Once found, they typically have spread quickly and have already caused billions of dollars in damage in Eastern States.


Quagga and zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian seas and were imported to the Great Lakes in 1988. In 20 years, the clam-like creatures have spread to 26 states.

- The mussels reproduce quickly. Each female can lay millions of eggs that grow in colonies to densities of hundreds of thousands per square yard. Quaggas are slightly larger and live in deeper, cooler water and can breed year-round.

- Mussels attach themselves to surfaces on boats and spread from lake to lake.

- In Colorado, officials are relying on educating the public to clean, drain and dry boats when moving them from one lake to another.


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