Quagga suspicion has potential to harm Heber Valley economy

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WASATCH COUNTY, Utah -- First things first when you talk with Eugene Swalberg, spokesman for Utah State Parks: it’s not a quagga mussel problem.

“Right now Deer Creek Reservoir is a suspect reservoir,” Swalberg said.

It’s a suspected problem.

The suspicion comes from wildlife biologists discovering little creatures called “veligers,” essentially the microscopic precursors to quagga mussels.

That happened in 2014. So far it hasn’t been followed by the discovery of quagga mussels themselves.

But that suspicion has the potential to hurt the economy of the Heber Valley. That’s because quaggas can stick onto boats, and contaminated boats pose a danger to quagga free reservoirs.

So every boat that is put into Deer Creek Reservoir has to go through a decontamination process or stay out of the water for 18 days before putting in at a “clean” lake.

"Each year we have about 250 thousand visitors at Deer Creek State Park and they do various activities from fishing to swimming to paddle boarding, and it's a lot of fun, so it’s very important to our economy,” said Ryan Starks, Executive Director of Heber Valley Tourism and Economic Development.

For now, the impact of sunny weather has outweighed any fear of quagga.

“The boating numbers for 2015 might be even double what they were last year,” Swalberg said.

Deer Creek State Park is training decontamination staff to help boaters at Deer Creek.

In the meantime, biologists from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources are testing the waters, hoping they don’t find quagga.​

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