With temperatures rising and the boating season upon us, now is not the time to let down our guard when it comes to the importance of keeping invasive quagga mussels out of the reservoirs on the Salt and Verde rivers.
That’s why Salt River Project is reminding East Valley residents that it is just as important as ever this spring to “Don’t Move a Mussel,” which is more than a cute catchphrase about the tiny mussels’ potential threat to not only our recreation opportunities but to the cost of delivering water and power to the Valley.
Quagga mussels, if you’ve only heard a little about them, are no bigger than a fingernail. But their size is no reflection on what they can do to our water supply should they make their way from the Colorado River and Lake Pleasant to Saguaro, Canyon, Apache and Roosevelt lakes on the Salt River or Bartlett and Horseshoe lakes on the Verde.
The good news is, four years after quaggas were first discovered at the doorstep of the SRP water-delivery system, the CAP/SRP Interconnect Delivery Channel in east Mesa, there has been no evidence that they have spread or infested the reservoirs on the Salt and Verde — nor made it into SRP’s 131-mile canal system.
That means there still is a chance that the mussels’ arrivals can be delayed. This is significant to boaters, whose engines could be damaged by the mussels, and to SRP, which would see increased maintenance costs and the associated impacts on hydro generation and dam operations.
SRP continues to monitor for quagga mussels, particularly during the month-long annual canal dry-ups in the fall and winter. We also stay proactive in supporting the “Don’t Move a Mussel” message every chance we get.
In March, we talked to participants at Lake Pleasant about the threat of mussels at the Bill Luke Bass Fishing Days and the Level II Watercraft Inspection and Decontamination Training session, and then we took our message to state legislators by bringing one of the seven quagga mussel displays we recently purchased for outreach and educational opportunities to the SRP Day at the Capitol.
Some of the quagga displays will be loaned to the U.S. Forest Service while another will be going to Page, where SRP will help with local educational efforts to keep the quaggas out of Lake Powell.
You’ll see our bright yellow “Don’t Move a Mussel” signs around the Salt and Verde reservoirs, reminding boaters to clean their crafts before launching as well as after they’ve finished enjoying the recreation.
SRP will continue to work with our quagga mussel consultants, Arizona Game & Fish, Central Arizona Project, Bureau of Reclamation, other agencies and other water-delivery entities in the Southwest to monitor the extent of the infestation and evaluate options for control of the mussels.
In addition to our monitoring program, SRP is partnering with these agencies to promote the “Don’t Move a Mussel” outreach program in which state natural resource officials are requesting boaters and other recreationists take simple steps to help prevent quagga mussels and other aquatic hitchhikers from spreading to other lakes.
The bottom line is that while quagga mussels do not pose a threat to public health, they can affect lake productivity as well as add significant maintenance costs to water providers such as SRP and CAP and to Valley municipal water-treatment facilities.
Lesly Swanson is senior scientist/engineer in Salt River Project’s environmental group, heading up SRP’s quagga mussel outreach campaign