Training at Utah Lake prepares personnel for fight against ‘STD of the sea’

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UTAH LAKE -- An invasive species called quagga mussels are causing some major financial harm to Utah’s water infrastructure, and this weekend technicians trained to be certified as watercraft decontamination experts.

The Department of Natural Resources calls the creatures the “STD of the Sea," with STD standing for a Skiff-transmitted disease.

“They represent a potentially really big threat for the economy of the state of Utah,” said Nathan Owens, Utah DNR’s Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator. “They clog pipes, destroy water distribution systems. They can cause a variety of damage. We are talking millions of dollars per year just to maintain our water infrastructure."

Owens said the mussels are spreading more abundantly.

"In 2015 our technicians across the state of Utah intercepted 145,000 boats," he said. "That number increased every year. Last year we intercepted 12 boats with mussels attached to them coming down our I-15 corridor point of entry from the lower Colorado River area.”

Owens said if the mussels get into the central Utah area, it will cost the state $25 million extra to maintain the water infrastructure every year.

“The biggest misconception is that these are inevitable, and they are going to end up in Utah's waterways," he said. "The point we want to get across is this is completely within our control. If we are all willing to take an extra couple minutes to make sure our watercraft are completely clean, drained, and dry before we launch in other Utah water bodies, this is something we can prevent.”

Over the weekend, DNR technicians across the state trained to become a certified watercraft decontamination expert. According to a press release, more than 40 personnel underwent the training at Utah State Park, with members of the Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah State Parks making up the class of trainees.

For more about the campaign against the spread of the mussels--including tips on cleaning, draining and drying your watercraft--visit STD of the Sea's website.