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RRFW Riverwire – Quagga Mussels Found Below Glen Canyon Dam
November 1, 2014

Quagga mussels are now in the smooth water section of the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Lee’s Ferry.

These tiny clam-like creatures can grow to the size of a nickel and first showed up in the reservoir just downstream of the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, in 2007. National Park officials fought for a decade to keep quagga out of Lake Powell, the reservoir above Glen Canyon Dam. They lost that battle in 2012.

Recently, National Park Service officials noted large numbers of the larva were passing through Glen Canyon Dam, and last week, quagga mussels were discovered by a Lee’s Ferry fishing guide attached to cobbles in the 15 mile section of Glen Canyon between Glen Canyon Dam and Lee’s Ferry. Below Lee’s Ferry the Colorado River flows through the 280 mile long Grand Canyon National Park.

Terry Gun, of Lee’s Ferry Anglers, is concerned. “We had heard these mussels would not inhabit the areas of the river with current, but the guides are finding the mussels in areas with flow, especially where the mussels are protected behind rocks.” According to Gunn, all boaters launching now at Lee’s Ferry have a possibility of having their rafts and hard hull boats contaminated with quagga. Two photos of quagga in Glen Canyon taken the week of October 27, 2014, may be seen here:

https://rrfw.org/sites/default/files/Quagga_in_Glen_Canyon_Oct_2014.jpg

https://rrfw.org/sites/default/files/Quagga_in_Glen_Canyon_on_cobble_Oct_2014.jpg

While the mussels can live for weeks out of the water, they do not survive in muddy water, especially at turbidity levels found in the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.

Concerns include quagga mussels colonizing hydroelectric plants such as the Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam, the largest hydroelectric plants on the Colorado River. Quagga can clog water supply pipes used to cool generators, compressors, transformers and other equipment at these dams.

Research is ongoing to find a freshwater predator or bacteria that would be harmful to quagga. In the meantime, the mussel has arrived and the mussel’s impact to the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Mead remains uncertain.

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They will change the natural ecosystems entirely. They will out compete the native aquatic insect larvae (nymphs) thus greatly reducing the food the fish rely on.


Jim
 

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Are they a danger to native plants and/or fish
Yes. They can severely alter food webs in certain cases. They are also unlikely to colonize swift rivers without upstream lentic habitats supplying large amounts of veligers for colonization. In other words, it is just another way that the Powell Reservoir is pooping in the river.

Now they are putting another invasive fish, redear sunfish, into Mead to help control the mussles.
 

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They are a horrible addition to the colorado river system. And from a management funding standpoint....the dam will always have funding for development to maintain its purpose but wildlife and aquatic services rarely are able to keep up with this form of biological warfare.

On the other hand....mussels seem like a losing battle unless we are willing to entirely ban motorized vessels from moving between waters. And I don't ever see that being politically viable in the US.

We are so far down this rabbit hole I don't know what to think about introducing invasive biocontrols to eradicate other invasive species. Such a nasty issue.

Phillip
 

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As mike says they are unlikely to colonize swift water ecosystems and the lakes are already unnatural I do wonder what impact they will have. Of course as Phillip states they will spread to natural Stillwater environments and reek havoc.
Are these the same creature that turned the Great Lakes into a clear blue but much more lifeless environment?


Jim
 

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Hi,

Sort of depends on what you mean by "swiftwater." There aren't any rapids between the Dam and Lees Ferry, but they evidently can survive the temperature and moving current in that stretch.

Here in Illinois, we have them in moving streams as well as lakes, so there is at least some additional reason to believe they are resilient in that regard. The sediment load in our infested rivers is not as dense as when the Paria and LCR are kicking hard, nor as persistent. But even with our harsh winters and spring runoffs, they have (sadly) survived and prospered.

The shells are small and sharp. In addition to all the other problems, if they wind up infesting the rocks on the river through GC, it could be a real challenge keeping soft-hull craft moored without incurring damage.

FWIW.

Rich Phillips
 

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Quagga Omlets and Pinto Beans

No need for the Wrecked Bureau to wreck it further with more invasive species.

Let the healing begin by accepting the mussels as the inevitable result of a failed and fool-hearty attempt to harness the Colorado.

Wrecked should let the quagga invasion run its course without inflicting further damage. Fresh quagga omelets? mmm, mmm, mmm. Fresh quagga dip based on dry land beans from a free-flowing Dolores River. mmmm, mmmm, mmmm, mmmm, mmmmm.
 

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Reminds me of that Simpsons episode when lizards eat all of the pigeons at the end. Then they plan to send in snakes to eat the lizards, then snake eating gorillas, then winter rolls in just in time for the gorillas to freeze to death!
 

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No need for the Wrecked Bureau to wreck it further with more invasive species.

Let the healing begin by accepting the mussels as the inevitable result of a failed and fool-hearty attempt to harness the Colorado.
I don't know for sure but my hypothesis is that the mussels were introduced into Lake Powell by a motorized boat someone brought from elsewhere, possibly back east.

Crap.
 

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On the other hand....mussels seem like a losing battle unless we are willing to entirely ban motorized vessels from moving between waters. And I don't ever see that being politically viable in the US.
Why Just motorized? Cause folks utilizing human powered craft are inherently more adept at preventing the spread of aquatic invasives?

I don't know for sure but my hypothesis is that the mussels were introduced into Lake Powell by a motorized boat someone brought from elsewhere, possibly back east.

Crap.
Do we really have to start pointing fingers towards other users? There are certainly lots of places for larvae to live in a large motorized craft. There are also plenty of places on a lace in self-bailer, or inside a kayak that hops from one river to the next... Acting morally superior to another type of user will only degrade the conversation and detract from the progress of stemming future advances of the little buggers!

On another note I tend to agree with the idea of not introducing a spider to swallow the fly...

I know that the invasive mussels are a different type of problem, but 15 years ago trout, salmon and steelhead fishing as we knew it was doomed! Whirling disease was going to wreak havoc on western streams altering the economy and signaling the end of civilization as I knew it... In the end the impact was fairly minor and self mitigating... Lets not panic just yet!
 

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Why Just motorized? Cause folks utilizing human powered craft are inherently more adept at preventing the spread of aquatic invasives?



Do we really have to start pointing fingers towards other users? There are certainly lots of places for larvae to live in a large motorized craft. There are also plenty of places on a lace in self-bailer, or inside a kayak that hops from one river to the next... Acting morally superior to another type of user will only degrade the conversation and detract from the progress of stemming future advances of the little buggers!

On another note I tend to agree with the idea of not introducing a spider to swallow the fly...

I know that the invasive mussels are a different type of problem, but 15 years ago trout, salmon and steelhead fishing as we knew it was doomed! Whirling disease was going to wreak havoc on western streams altering the economy and signaling the end of civilization as I knew it... In the end the impact was fairly minor and self mitigating... Lets not panic just yet!
Have you read up much on the mussels? Its pretty well established that they are more common on motorized rigs, especially those that hold any sort of water from the lakes they use. Its not a bashing of motorized used so much as a well established fact of the mussels life cycle. You don't hear about the spread of these types of invasives from kayaks and rafts because its not common. There is a reason most western states require motor boats to pull over at borders or go through a procedure at lakes. Yeah, Powell required me to be interviews when I launched my kayak trip there but it was as easy as a single question. Its also a matter of #s....where these invasives are being transported (to and from) are largely used by motor boats.

You are barking up the wrong tree on this one...both of us are rather friendly or at least accepting of motor crowds.

And its not a matter of panicking as being fairly educated on the subject. This isn't new. And the potential harm is much more than a disease that affects a few species. From an ecological level we are talking about a species that has the potential (and has already elsewhere) forever altering the habitat. The cascade is not healthy for how we understand these systems or how we currently use them. From a human systems standpoints they have the potential to destroy hydroelectric systems with relatively no recourse.

And maybe Whirling Disease didn't affect your region much but we lost several of our local hatcheries which alone is millions of dollars in damage, lost jobs and rather lengthy changes to our regional fishing opportunities. Its also a great example of how writing off educated responses as "panicking" is inaccurate. The concerted actions of wildlife managers, scientists and stakeholders had a significant influence on the spread and impact of the parasite. Doing so meant understanding how it was spread and taking rational and educated measures to reduce its impact.

The first stage of doing so for zebra and quagga mussels has been effective but obviously not enough. They are still spreading. As I said before the most direct option is not politically and socially possible as we know it; citizens would not allow themselves to be hampered by a policy that restricts transportation of motor boats between regional waterways. Not sure how agencies can further respond at this point. But your response is not an accurate portrayal of the conversation or the scale of the issue (ecological and human infrastructure).

In the Great Lakes alone....researchers estimate the cost to be more than $3.1 billion for power industry and $5billion for local economies. And that was just for a 6 year period.

Phillip
 

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My only edit to Andy's comment would be it could just as easily been from regional boaters. Quagga mussels have been established in Mead and Mojave for several years.
 

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My only edit to Andy's comment would be it could just as easily been from regional boaters. Quagga mussels have been established in Mead and Mojave for several years.
Phillip - thanks for correcting me, I hadn't realized that Mead and Mojave had Quagga mussels in them. I concur with the way you characterized my mention of motors - I think there's a time and place for them. It just seems like motorized boats (power boats, houseboats, etc.) have lots more places for bilgewater, and any noxious critters in it, to hang out when being transported from one place to another.

-AH
 

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Yeah, sadly, it seems the steady march forward into reservoirs and lakes for invasive mussels is largely inevitable. I think I have read that the first reliable sightings and counts of quagga in Mead dates back to the mid-aughts.

Water intake and hard hulls seems to be the primary issues with motor boats. Some agencies do mention cleaning procedures for inflatables (mostly focused on lake tubes, etc) but its not remotely the agency focus. The reality is active systems of water intake increase the risk of exposure and transportation of mussels. Sucks for motor boats and the agencies....not cheap for either of them.

If/when we start to find significant evidence that non-motorized whitewater boaters are transporting invasive species then I would hope our community would be willing to change its habits too. I can only hope that never happens.

I wouldn't want to be the fisherman or commercial guides in Lees Ferry right now. The major changes mussels cause seems to take about a decade to really take hold. I imagine there are gonna be some difficult meetings and decisions to be made soon...not to mention finding funds to research and implement changes.

Phillip
 

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Have you read up much on the mussels? Its pretty well established that they are more common on motorized rigs, especially those that hold any sort of water from the lakes they use. Its not a bashing of motorized used so much as a well established fact of the mussels life cycle. You don't hear about the spread of these types of invasives from kayaks and rafts because its not common. There is a reason most western states require motor boats to pull over at borders or go through a procedure at lakes. Yeah, Powell required me to be interviews when I launched my kayak trip there but it was as easy as a single question. Its also a matter of #s....where these invasives are being transported (to and from) are largely used by motor boats.
You are barking up the wrong tree on this one...both of us are rather friendly or at least accepting of motor crowds.
And its not a matter of panicking as being fairly educated on the subject. This isn't new. And the potential harm is much more than a disease that affects a few species. From an ecological level we are talking about a species that has the potential (and has already elsewhere) forever altering the habitat. The cascade is not healthy for how we understand these systems or how we currently use them. From a human systems standpoints they have the potential to destroy hydroelectric systems with relatively no recourse.
And maybe Whirling Disease didn't affect your region much but we lost several of our local hatcheries which alone is millions of dollars in damage, lost jobs and rather lengthy changes to our regional fishing opportunities. Its also a great example of how writing off educated responses as "panicking" is inaccurate. The concerted actions of wildlife managers, scientists and stakeholders had a significant influence on the spread and impact of the parasite. Doing so meant understanding how it was spread and taking rational and educated measures to reduce its impact.
The first stage of doing so for zebra and quagga mussels has been effective but obviously not enough. They are still spreading. As I said before the most direct option is not politically and socially possible as we know it; citizens would not allow themselves to be hampered by a policy that restricts transportation of motor boats between regional waterways. Not sure how agencies can further respond at this point. But your response is not an accurate portrayal of the conversation or the scale of the issue (ecological and human infrastructure).
In the Great Lakes alone....researchers estimate the cost to be more than $3.1 billion for power industry and $5billion for local economies. And that was just for a 6 year period.
Phillip
wow - I wasn't implying that you, Andy or anyone else on this thread was panicking, it was meant more inline with the comments above at adding other invasive species to attack the current invasive species to attack the previous one... you know ye olde "I knew and old lady who swallowed a fly" concept.

I'm also certainly not advocating doing nothing, and I definitely didn't write off anyone's response...I guess that's what I get for trying to be concise.

Yes, I have some working knowledge of invasive species, including aquatic invasives... mostly plants but I've read a bit about zebra muscles, not particularly the Quagga but the problem they pose is crystal clear...

I didn't say you were bashing, you simply singled out one user type, in my experience that is counter productive. I agree completely that it's more common in power boats, I own and operate both, I understand, but it's still possible. If motorboats can spread the mussel, so can rafts, kayak's, sandals, felt soles and dreadlocks. to paraphrase: Take ownership, work together and don't point fingers!

Here in boondock land all boats must stop at check stations. I wonder how many "paddlers" don't think it applies to them?

I know that the invasive mussels are a different type of problem, but...
As I already mentioned I know they're not the same thing, however, not all ecological Armageddon's live up to the hype...let's work the problem, preferably without making it worse. And maybe if we're lucky the problem will be less devastating than predicted... At least it wouldn't be the first time.

Just a point of argument about whirling disease, the overall impacts were a tiny, tiny fraction of what was forecast. I was not trying to belittle those it did impact but by most accounts Montana was going to be amongst the hardest hit because we don't stock rivers. The result was to be loss of genetically "pure" strains of salmonids. In the end it was the wild fish that "saved" the day, the genetic diversity allowed for reasonable numbers of tolerant individuals, those that survived, repopulated stretches with resistant fish. Ultimately whirling disease probably did more good than harm to our fishery (again sorry for the few guides that had to find temp work for a few summers).

I still stand behind my original statement. If you were to propose legislation, phrased as you did above, you'd have every power boater out their rallying against paddlers.... For fuck sakes, All I'm saying, is let's not make the road to recovery any harder than it has to be. This is all of our problem work it together with a minimum additional regulations! I realize it's the buzz, but do we have to fight about everything?
 
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