Invasive Mussel Population Expected to Rise at Lake Powell

Feb 26, 2014

Invasive aquatic species have entered many of the major water systems in the American West. As Arizona Public Radio’s Justin Regan reports, the population of the quagga mussel is expected to rise at Lake Powell.

Quagga mussels attached to the bottom of a boat.

As water levels drop in the lake, officials are finding that the number of mussels is higher than originally thought. According to Mark Anderson, the aquatic ecologist at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, they are mostly now found at the very south end of the lake. It’s not as bad as other places such as Lake Mead, but that may change in the coming years.

“We’ve seen enough of these mussels and we’ve detected enough of their larval stage that it’s pretty clear that we’re probably right on the cusp where the reproduction of these mussels will take an exponential trend,” Anderson says.

The mussel is not native to North America and can attach itself to boats which can transfer it to other bodies of water. This presents a major problem to the environment and infrastructure.

“They fowl any kind of equipment or intakes or anything we have like that in the water, none of our facilities are prepared to deal with this sort of fowling. They filter a large amount water pulling out all the plankton, the algae and microscopic animals that support the food chain,” Anderson says.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area will step up an education program on the mussels and look for public input on dealing with the issue. For now, Anderson continues to advocate for people to clean, drain and dry their boats every time they exit a body of water.