Interior Combating the Spread of Invasive Mussels throughout the Lower Colorado River Basin

Last edited 02/15/2023

Date: Tuesday, March 10, 2020

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Interior today announced that four of its Bureaus will further coordinate efforts to prevent, contain and control quagga and zebra mussels in western states. An agreement among the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service will pool resources to fund essential work in waterways across the Lower Colorado River Basin.

“Under Interior’s new unified regional structure, Bureaus have been tasked to find opportunities to improve coordination and facilitate problem-solving and resource sharing,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “This collaborative effort will aid in combating the spread of invasive species in vital western waters and is a testament of Interior’s commitment to conserving our natural resources.”

Last year, the Department completed an effort to consolidate 49 regions across 8 Bureaus into 12 common geographic regions. These unified regions have been fostering enhanced coordination among the Department’s Bureaus, establishing more effective relationships with our partners and providing better customer service for the American people. A Field Special Assistant was assigned to each region by Secretary Bernhardt to serve as a direct conduit to him for the Department’s field activities, providing expertise, leadership and assistance in the coordination of programs and policies.

“Interior Region 8 has identified the containment of invasive aquatic mussels as a top regional priority,” said Interior Region 8 Field Special Assistant Raymond Suazo. “We believe this agreement is an important step in more effectively addressing the significant ecological and economic impacts associated with these invasive species.”

The agreement builds on existing nationwide Interior efforts to address invasive species and specifically leverages bureau resources in Arizona, California and Nevada to bolster the Watercraft Inspection and Decontamination (WID) data sharing system and Watercraft Inspection Decontamination Training.

“Invasive mussels are a serious threat to critical water infrastructure and ecosystems in Arizona and across the West,” said Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ). “As chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee, I convened stakeholders at a recent hearing to discuss how to better protect our water resources from invasive species. The number one thing I heard from experts on the ground was the need for more coordination between federal, state and local partners across the western region. I applaud the Administration’s actions to deliver on this feedback by ensuring more effective cooperation to prevent and control the spread of destructive mussels.”

“Federal agencies in the West have been battling the spread of invasive species like quagga and zebra mussels for decades, and this agreement will allow them to pool their resources and optimize their containment efforts,” said Senator Cortez Masto (D-NV). “I’m proud to support collaborative partnerships that will help protect Nevada’s priceless water resources, from Lake Mead to Lake Tahoe, from ecological and economic threats.”

Federal agencies have invested in protecting the West from quagga and zebra mussels for two decades. In 2017, Interior released a package of actions and initiatives developed through collaboration with western governors and federal, state and Tribal agencies to protect areas in the West from the economic and ecological threats posed by invasive mussels. Through the initiative Safeguarding the West from Invasive Species, Interior spent $39.4 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 to FY2019 and nearly $15 million was enacted for FY2020.

The spread of invasive mussels has become a major concern as quagga and zebra mussels have continued to spread throughout the West, infesting reservoirs and water intakes, hydroelectric power plants and water supply systems. Invasive mussels spread quickly in clusters and permanently settle on or within water and power facility infrastructure. Maintaining and operating power and water supply and delivery facilities, water recreation and other water-dependent industries in mussel-infested water bodies is significantly more complex and expensive.

Mussels also negatively affect public recreation, ecological systems and water quality. Shell fragments make swim beaches inhospitable and threatened irrigation systems. They also reduce the availability food for native and endangered mollusks and fish.

The primary way mussels spread from one water body to another is on recreational boats used in infested water and then transported to another water body. Larval mussels are microscopic and can survive in small amounts of water left on the boat, and juvenile and adult mussels can attach themselves to the boat and survive transport. Larvae can also be moved within connected waters by natural currents. Mussels are difficult to eradicate once they get established in a body of water.

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