Quagga Mussels Spreading in the West, Now in Lake Powell

Quagga and Zebra Mussels continue to spread in the West, despite efforts to curtail or prevent their spread. Quagga Mussels first arrived in the Great Lakes in the late 1980s and since then have spread throughout the country. On February 25, 2014 National Park Service and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials announced that thousands of adult quagga mussels have been found in various locations in Lake Powell.

Retrieval of zebra mussel-encrusted Vector Averaging Current Meter near Michigan City, IN. Lake Michigan, June 1999

Throughout the country zebra and quagga mussels have caused billions of dollars in damage and many states are spending millions to control existing populations and millions more to prevent them from spreading to other water bodies. Controlling the mussel populations is difficult because they are very resilient. The mussels can survive outside of water for seven days; as a result recreational boats can accidentally carry the invasive species from one lake to another without the owner knowing it. Once present the mussels quickly reproduce.  A female mussel can produce 1 million eggs per year; though less than 1% are believed to survive to the juvenile stage.

Eradicating the invasive mussels is a difficult task as there are limited known natural predators for the mussels, and most known predators are not native to the United States. Along the Colorado River redear sunfish have been stocked in the waterways as a defense against quagga mussels. However, because the diet of the mussels is high in toxins, there is concern that toxins will accumulate in the mussels and then up the food chain as they are eaten by redear sunfish.  There has been success with using the bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens to kill the invasive mussels. A commercial version of the bacteria known as Zequanox is approved for use in power plants to keep mussels from clogging pipes. The company that makes Zequanox is working to receive approval to use the product in open water.

States are taking action to combat the spread of the invasive mussels. Utah spends $1.35 million annually combatting the spread of invasive mussels. Currently, the Utah legislature is looking at SB 212 which would allow the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources to establish inspection stations to check boats entering Utah for the presence of quagga or zebra mussels. In Washington, SB 6040 is moving through the legislature and would create an integrated management program for invasive species to be managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Last year, Oregon passed SB 116, which reestablished the Shipping Transport of Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force to look at ways to prevent the spread of AIS via ballast water. At the 2013 CSG West Annual Meeting, CSG West passed a resolution encouraging cooperation among states and federal funding to deal with Aquatic Invasive Species.

State Aquatic Invasive Species Programs:

Alaska Invasive Species Working Group

Arizona Invasive Species Advisory Council

California’s Invasive Species Council

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Aquatic Invasive Species Programs

Hawaii Invasive Species Council

Idaho's Invasive Species Council

Montana’s Invasive Species Program

Nevada Invasive Species Council

New Mexico Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan

Oregon Invasive Species Council

Utah Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan

Washington Invasive Species Council

Wyoming Game & Fish Department Aquatic Invasive Species Program


Multi State Councils:

Western Regional Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species

Federal Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force

100th Meridian Initiative

PNWER Invasive Species Council