Meeting could represent new approach on invasive quaggasTop of Form

The development of a containment strategy for the invasive quagga mussel has been identified as a top priority for the U.S. Department of the Interior.

A meeting held in Lake Havasu City last week might be the first step in the development of such a plan.

The two-day meeting between a number of state and federal agencies was closed to the public, but Lake Havasu Marine Association President Jim Salscheider believes the talks could lead to more state and federal grant funding for his organization’s efforts to combat the quagga’s spread.

It also could lead to new initiatives to stop the little mussel from invading waters in other western states. Multiple calls to the Bureau of Land Management, which hosted the meeting at its Havasu office, were not returned by Friday.

“It was two intense days,” said Marine Association President Jim Salscheider. “There was a lot more going on here than anyone knew.”

Salscheider was referring to the wide array of initiatives pursued by multiple agencies in combating the same problem, outside of the knowledge of other agencies. Many hands didn’t know what the others were doing, but according to Salscheider, that may have changed with this week’s meeting.

“Different agencies were doing their own thing and not communicating with each other,” Salscheider said. “California and Arizona representatives had a lot of dialogue at the meeting – it was refreshing. What they’re trying to do is be better at coordinating their efforts. We need to do a better job of getting the community and boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats.”

Few agencies have fought the invasive aquatic species for longer than the Lake Havasu Marine Association, which was granted a special seat at the meeting. The Marine Association has, for nearly a decade, volunteered to educate boaters on Lake Havasu, and has offered to inspect thousands of boats that pass through Havasu’s waters.

Quagga mussels were found in Lake Havasu about 10 years ago, and have since spread up and down the Colorado River and in some Southern California waterways. The mussels, each about the size of a fingernail, can multiply rapidly. Colonies can number in the millions, filtering nutrients from bodies of water and endangering entire aquatic ecosystems. Quagga mussels have also been known to clog and damage manmade systems of water-conveyance and filtration systems, as well, requiring millions of dollars in maintenance per year to address. While officials estimate their origins to have been in Central Europe, quaggas found their way to Havasu by way of the Great Lakes.

The danger of cross-contamination exists even while boats are out of the water, officials say, and Arizona boaters are required to clean, drain and dry their respective watercraft upon exiting state waters in order to mitigate the spread of quagga “stowaways” or quagga spawn that could potentially be transmitted to bodies of water elsewhere throughout the Southwest.

“A report will be out this February, summarizing all of this,” Salscheider said. “We appreciated having a seat at the table to represent boaters and their interests.”

Representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona State Parks, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation, the Colorado River Indian Tribes, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Lake Havasu Marine Association were present at the meeting.

“For the tribes, it was the first time they’ve been involved in something like this,” Salscheider said. “But now the states are going to try doing a better job of reaching out, and get the tribes more involved.”

By Brandon Messick, Todays Havasu News, December 10, 2017

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