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Reclamation Tackles Quagga and Zebra Mussel Issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. 2/24/12 (PennWell) -- A multi-pronged effort under way by the Bureau of Reclamation is focused on finding ways to combat the presence of quagga and zebra mussels in its reservoirs in the western U.S. Much of this work can be applied anywhere mussels are found.

Quagga and zebra mussels are invasive species that arrived in North America from Europe in the 1980s. The first account of an established population occurred in 1988 in Lake Saint Clair between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

By 1990, zebra mussels had been found in all five Great Lakes and over the next two years made their way into the major tributaries of the Mississippi River system. As of 2011, they had been reported within, or in waters adjacent to the borders of, 30 states. Quagga mussels were confined primarily to the Great Lakes until 2007, when a large population was discovered in Lake Mead on the Colorado River. Quagga mussels have since been reported in 15 states, USGS says.

The spread of quagga and zebra mussels has the potential to impair or interrupt water delivery and hydropower generation functions, as well as to create long-term ecological impacts. Mussels can disrupt aquatic food chains by filtering out plankton upon which fish and other organisms feed. These mussels are capable of attaching to all water-related infrastructure surfaces and thus clog pipes, pumps, trashracks, and cooling water and fire suppression systems. In addition, the mussels build up on spillway gates and other hydraulic structures, inhibiting their functions. All of these structures all critical to the reliability of Reclamation’s mission of delivering water and generating hydropower.

Quagga or zebra mussels have been detected in Reclamation waters in seven states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. Mussel infestations are adversely affecting several Reclamation facilities, including the 255-MW Davis, 2,078.8-MW Hoover, and 120-MW Parker projects and Imperial Dam.

Reclamation has developed and is implementing a four-part strategy to combat the presence of mussels in its waters. The components of this strategy are: outreach and education, monitoring and prevention of new infestations, control and mitigation, and research. 

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