Quagga mussels cause stir among state, federal agencies

Quagga mussels are shown in this undated photo by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

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Quagga mussels are shown in this undated photo by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Federal officials say Arizona isn’t doing enough to contain the spread of quagga mussels.

Multiple state and federal agencies are expected to meet next Wednesday in Lake Havasu City to address the growing threat posed by Arizona’s aquatic invasive species.

“Existing watercraft inspection and decontamination efforts are not sufficient to contain the spread of quagga mussels on watercraft from the Lower Colorado River,” BLM spokeswoman Stephanie Carman wrote in a September email.

According to Carman, the meeting is intended to bring federal, state, tribal and local agencies together with stakeholders to develop and draft a Lower Colorado River strategy to contain invasive mussels. Carman said she expects a coordinated, area-wide containment effort by all parties, focusing on inspection and decontamination of long-term watercraft including outreach, education and inspection.

Quagga mussels have for more than a decade been a source of concern for Arizona residents and agencies, and the Lake Havasu Marine Association has for the past several years endeavored to educate Lake Havasu’s visiting boaters under the state’s “Clean, Drain and Dry” initiative. Volunteers from the Lake Havasu Marine Association have inspected thousands of watercraft since the initiative began, and this summer began an advertising campaign in the Havasu region to educate boaters about the dangers of inadvertently spreading quagga mussels beyond Havasu’s waters.

The Marine Association was invited to next week’s meeting due to its longstanding efforts to combat the spread of quagga mussels and other aquatic invasive species. According to Marine Association President Jim Salscheider, however, other western states are looking to Arizona government agencies to do more.

“All western states have boater stations and boater stops to inspect for invasive species,” said Marine Association President Jim Salscheider. “Arizona doesn’t. Western states want Arizona to have them, but I don’t know how they’ll deal with it. It would take a lot of effort, and a huge amount of money.”

Development of a containment strategy was named one of the U.S. Department of Interior’s top priorities to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive mussels to other states, and to other bodies of water along the Colorado River, said Carman in a September email.