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Mussel program launches smoothly

Mussel program launches smoothly

New Wyoming rules aim to prevent species from getting foothold

GREEN RIVER — Wyoming apparently remains free of zebra and quagga mussels following the traditional start of boating season this Memorial Day weekend, state officials said.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department workers inspected around 1,800 boats for the mussels over the three-day holiday weekend, officials said Wednesday.

No live mussels were discovered during any of the inspections.

One boat trying to launch at Jackson Lake on Saturday was found to have dead mussels on its engine. The boat was steam-cleaned and decontaminated as a precautionary measure.

Wyoming Aquatic Invasive Species coordinator Beth Bear said the first real test of the agency’s inspection program for mussel prevention went well.

“We were really, really pleased the way things went.  ... Everybody was very compliant and seemed happy to learn about the program,” Bear said.

The agency inspected boats at 17 aquatic recreation sites across Wyoming. Officials inspected approximately 350 boats at Glendo Reservoir, the most in the state.

The agency also inspected more than 200 boats at the Flaming Gorge in southwest Wyoming, about 200 at Jackson Lake, about 200 at Lake DeSmet and about 175 at Boysen Reservoir.

Bear said most boaters had their watercraft cleaned and prepared for mussel inspections prior to launching. That generally made for two- or three-minute inspections for most boaters and not much waiting in line at launch points.

“For the most part, boats came in drained, cleaned and dried, which made our jobs easier and made the boaters’ inspections quicker,” Bear said.

In March, the Game and Fish department — under a new Wyoming law — implemented emergency regulations in an effort to control the tiny, prolific mussels from invading Wyoming waters.

The new law gives the agency the authority to inspect boats and prevent the launching of any boat suspected of harboring the two mussel species.

Department officials scrambled for months to get the inspection program in place prior to Memorial Day weekend.

As part of the effort, the department hired 30 seasonal inspectors to man the watercraft inspection stations and purchased 19 decontamination units.

Mussel inspections on major Wyoming lakes and reservoirs began work May 23 and kicked into high gear Memorial Day weekend.

“We did have one incident this weekend when a boat came in to Jackson Lake that had been at Lake Mead and we actually did find mussels on the motor ... our inspectors did a fabulous job doing what they needed to do,” Bear said.

“The mussels were not alive. The boat had been out of the water about 50 days, and 30 days is long enough drying time to kill any mussels. But we did collect all the mussel shells and will send them to a lab to get a positive identification on them,” she said.

 

Decals, rules

 

In addition to the $1.5 million appropriated by the Wyoming Legislature to fund the aquatic invasive species program, watercraft users in Wyoming are now required to purchase and display an AIS decal before launching watercraft in Wyoming waters.

Inflatable watercraft 10 feet or shorter are exempt from the requirement.

All fees collected from the decal sales help fund the program’s inspection, education and other prevention efforts.

Bear said most boats and watercraft inspected over the weekend were displaying the decal.

She said the agency sold about 10,000 decals prior to the weekend.

“And we probably sold a lot more last Thursday and Friday,” Bear said.

The agency’s AIS program is operating under emergency regulations, which were signed by Gov. Dave Freudenthal on March 26 and will be in effect for 120 days.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will consider adopting a permanent aquatic-invasive-species regulation at its June 17 meeting at the agency’s Casper regional office.

The permanent regulation would replace the emergency rule that provided regulation for prevention, management and control of AIS species in Wyoming.

Friday was the deadline for public comments on the permanent regulation proposal. Agency officials said more than 100 comments were received.

Contact Jeff Gearino at gearino@tribcsp.com or 307-875-5359.

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