Why Invasive Mussels Have Area Water Managers on Edge

Mar 22, 2017

Those hoping to spend time on motorboats or jet skis this summer on local reservoirs will have to skip Narraguinnep and Totten reservoirs and plan to get their boats inspected for invasive mussels at McPhee.

Access to McPhee Reservoir for motorized boats and jet skis will be restricted to daytime hours only (6am to 8pm) starting at the beginning of May and continuing until September. A one-way gate will allow boaters to exit the lake outside of those hours. McPhee's House Creek boat launch will be open four days a week. Narraguinnep and Totten reservoirs will be open only to smaller, non-motorized crafts, like kayaks, canoes, inner tubes, and paddle boards. A meeting to discuss the new regulations will be held on Thursday, March 30th, at 6pm at the Destination Grill in Cortez.

All of the restrictions are designed to keep invasive mussels from infesting local reservoirs, according to Mike Preston, general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District. KSJD's Austin Cope talked to Preston to find out more. (Note: the Dolores Water Conservancy District is an underwriter of KSJD.)

To learn more about the invasive mussels themselves, Austin talked with Robert Radtke, a mussel expert for the Bureau of Reclamation in the Upper Colorado River region. His region includes Lake Powell, where quagga mussels have been introduced. Radtke says quagga mussels and their close relatives, zebra mussels, originated in the Caspian and Black Seas in central Europe. The mollusks made their way to the United States in the bilges of ships, where they spread into the Great Lakes in the 1980s. Since then, they have spread westward--they were found in Lake Mead in 2007 and in Lake Powell in 2013. They have few natural predators, and their eggs are microscopic, making them challenging to detect. In his interview with KSJD, Radtke gave an example of how quickly the mussels can spread.

More information about invasive mussels can be found at 100thmeridian.org.