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Quagga Mussels on the Lower Colorado River
Facilities Research and Testing

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Since 2008, Reclamation has focused on several invasive mussel research activities including improving early detection methods; identifying, developing, demonstrating, and implementing facilities protection technologies and strategies; and assessing ecological impacts. Today, researchers are engaged in a number of mussel-related research activities including:

  • Improvements in monitoring and detection – In collaboration with The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Reclamation researchers are investigating the potential of isolating and producing antibodies to improve detection of mussel larvae and explore the potential for other uses in controlling mussels. Under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Fluid Imaging Technologies, Reclamation has also been actively involved in identifying improvements for automated mussel detection in water samples using FlowCAM® technology. Reclamation also provided Metropolitan with Golden Mussel samples for DNA sequencing to assist in the development of future screening capabilities for this species.

  • quagga mussels on metal and rope at Parker DamCoatings testing – Since 2007, Reclamation researchers have conducted ongoing field testing of various commercially available coatings at Parker Dam.  Results to date have identified certain coatings systems that inhibit mussel fouling.  However, durability in those cases remains low.  While considering the characteristics of mussel adhesion, Reclamation researchers are working to further identify and develop durable coatings solutions with the desired anti-fouling or foul release performance features.

  • Zequanox development – Under a CRADA with Marrone Bio Innovations (MBI), a promising environmentally friendly treatment product derived from dead Pseudomonas fluorescens bacteria has been further developed through extensive testing at Reclamation’s Davis Dam.  Results to date have shown efficacy in closed-system trials.  Reclamation has received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency to use Zequanox at impacted Reclamation facilities along the lower reaches of the Colorado River, and now Reclamation is working through the National Environmental Policy Act process to treat a cooling water subsystem at Davis Dam.

  • Evaluation of filtration and UV technologies – Reclamation has been actively testing ballast filtration technology to protect cooling water systems at Parker Dam. Initial results indicate near 100% exclusion of mussel larvae larger than 100 microns using 40-micron filter media and 95% exclusion of mussel larvae sized larger than 200 microns using 80-micron filter media. Testing has transitioned to long-term performance evaluations within operation and maintenance requirements. Reclamation has also recently begun evaluating ultraviolet (UV) treatment for cooling water system protection at Hoover Dam. 

  • Alternative control technologies development – Several additional technologies are being explored including pulsed pressure devices to remove mussels and/or prevent settlement on water intake structures and within pipelines; turbulence generating devices to prevent settlement within water distribution systems; fish predation as a means for mussel control; elevated pH control strategies; carbon dioxide injection; dissolved oxygen scavengers; potential for the use of certain herbicides to control mussels in irrigation systems; retrofit of trash raking systems to remove mussels from intakes; and alternative fish screening technologies to maintain hydraulic and biological performance in the presence of mussels.  Many of these activities involve collaboration with other federal agencies, Reclamation’s managing partners, and private industry.

  • Assessment of ecological impacts – Reclamation is continuing to assess the long-term ecological impacts related to mussel infestations including overall post-infestation changes in water quality, interactions with other benthic organisms, and the potential for cyanobacteria-producing toxins in Western water bodies.

  • Monitoring and Detection ProjectReclamation’s Research and Development Office was provided $4.5 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding for mussel monitoring and detection at more than 350 priority water bodies in the Western U.S.  This project uses multiple detection methods to provide highly sensitive tests while minimizing false positive and false negative results. The data reflects the range of mussel colonization and the suitability of the environment near Reclamation facilities for potential future findings.  Early detection provides the valuable lead time (up to 3 years) to plan for, budget for, and implement mitigation and protection measures for water delivery and hydropower facilities, prior to them being overwhelmed by impacts. 

  • Facility Vulnerability Assessments – To further assist Reclamation offices and our managing partners (including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), staff from Reclamation’s Technical Service Center and Lower Colorado Region will have conducted more than 75 facility vulnerability assessments throughout the Western U.S by the end of 2011.  This effort, in conjunction with early detection, has been geared toward providing site-specific information on potential mussel-related impacts to key facility features that will assist project management and staff in anticipating and planning for those impacts should a future infestation occur.

  • Collaboration and Outreach – Reclamation is continuing to explore collaboration opportunities with Federal and state agencies, private industry, and academia to identify, evaluate, develop, and implement new mussel management and control technologies and strategies.  In addition to recently hosting the 17th International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species in San Diego, CA and the 2009 Western Invasive Mussel Management Workshop in Las Vegas, NV, Reclamation plans to pursue future technical exchange forums with our managing partners and the scientific community.

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Updated: May 2011