April 20, 2018
Two species of invasive dreissenid mussels, zebra mussel and quagga mussel, have become established in freshwater lakes, reservoirs, and rivers in the United States. Invasive mussels pose significant challenges for the Bureau of Reclamation and all agencies and industries that manage water. Invasive mussels are prolific breeders and can settle on or within water facility infrastructure such as water intakes, gates, diversion screens, hydropower equipment, pumps, pipelines, and boats. Additionally, invasive mussels negatively impact the natural ecology, which can be detrimental to species, including endangered species.
Maintaining and operating water supply and delivery facilities, water recreation, and other water dependent industries and economies in mussel infested water bodies is more expensive and complex. Public recreation is also impacted by mussel infestations by shell fragments degrading swim beaches; increased requirements and cost for boaters to have their watercraft inspected and decontaminated; and potential negative impacts to game fish.
Reclamation’s invasive mussel corporate task force is focused on a four-part strategy; monitoring and prevention of infestation, outreach and education, research and control; and mitigation. This strategy guides the effective and efficient use of staff and resources with a focus on those facilities where mussels have been confirmed (emphasis on containment), those where there has been no infestation (Columbia River Basin), and those facilities that will likely be impacted in the future. In developing a corporate strategy, the integration, involvement, and communication within Reclamation and with other affiliated organizations outside of Reclamation remains consistent.
In 2018 and in support of the Department of the Interior’s Safeguarding the West from Invasive Species Initiative, Reclamation provided an additional $3.4 million over the previous year enacted appropriations to build on, and expand, efforts to prevent, contain, and control invasive mussels. Much of the funding supports partnerships with federal, state, and tribes to accomplish activities such as monitoring in multiple states, the purchase and operation of watercraft inspection and decontamination stations in the Lower Colorado River basin, development of facility vulnerability assessments to determine risk for critical infrastructure in the Columbia River Basin, and increasing capacity for the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe at Flathead Lake for their Aquatic Invasive Species program.
Reclamation continues to invest in research to develop, evaluate, and demonstrate effective technologies for the detection, prevention, control, and management of mussels both in the lab and in a field setting. Significant progress has been made in the last five years on detection methodologies, laboratory capabilities, and closed pipe controls. Ongoing research will be focused on these priorities: 1. Continued improvements in early detection and monitoring methods; 2. Demonstration and evaluation of conventional and promising new open water control technologies; and 3. Identification and development of effective long-term biological and engineering solutions.
In December 2017, Reclamation launched a prize competition seeking innovation solutions for the 100-percent eradication of invasive mussels from large reservoirs, lakes, and rivers in a cost effective and environmentally sound manner. Reclamation is making a total prize purse of $100,000 available. Response to this challenge was significant and submissions continue to be judged. This challenge launched Stage 1 of an envisioned three-staged Grand Challenge that is planned to include laboratory-scale and field-scale demonstrations.
To learn more about Reclamation’s invasive mussels efforts, see https://www.usbr.gov/mussels/.
For more information on the mussel prize challenge and other research efforts related to mussels, please see our latest Knowledge Stream magazine that is focused on this topic. https://www.usbr.gov/research/ks.html.
To learn more about the Department of the Interior’s Invasive Species Coordination and Safeguarding the West from Invasive Species Initiative, see https://www.doi.gov/ppa/office-of-policy-analysis-invasive-species-coordination.