Saturday, August 25, 2007

Quagga Mussels (Invasive Part One)

In a globalized world, this will continue to happen, and we probably need new strategies to deal with it that look at adaptation rather than extermination.

Water officials hope to limit spread after invasive shellfish found
By Terry Rodgers
and J. Harry Jones
August 24, 2007

Regional water officials are testing water, handing out fliers and, at one reservoir, banning private boats to control the spread of a tiny mussel that can foul pumps and pipelines and alter freshwater ecosystems.

The quagga mussels, shellfish that are smaller than a fingernail and multiply quickly, have been discovered at San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside. Officials believe the mussel also has invaded Escondido's Dixon Lake but are awaiting test results.

Even though there is no evidence of the mussel at Lake Wohlford, a popular fishing spot, the city of Escondido has temporarily banned private boats there as a precaution.

The shellfish are not being viewed as a significant threat to the water supply, but if left unchecked, they could become a massive and expensive nuisance.

Billions of dollars have been spent trying to control mussels in the Great Lakes that fill and block water pipes and power plant systems. Officials say the only way to kill the mussels is to dry them out or poison them with chlorine, but they can't chlorinate large bodies of water because it is too toxic. Until this year, the mussels had never been found west of the Continental Divide.

Quagga mussels are native to Russia and Ukraine, and are believed to have traveled to the United States to Lake Erie on transoceanic ships in the late 1980s.

In January, the mussel was found in Lake Mead. Officials think it hitched a ride on a private boat shuttled from the Great Lakes by trailer. Lake Mead, which straddles Nevada and Arizona, is a major power and water source for Southern California.