Invasive Species: Quagga and Zebra Mussels

Contact: Peter Soeth, 303-445-3615

Across all program areas within Reclamation States, funds support activities to prevent and combat infestation of quagga and zebra mussels. These mussels are rapidly reproducing invasive species that have infested many reservoirs in the Western United States and are impacting Reclamation facilities in a myriad of ways. Mussels clog pumps used for power and water operations, block water intake structures, and alter the ecology of the water bodies disrupting the ecological balance. This has negative and costly impacts on Reclamation operations, and often results in damage to structures, which leads to additional repairs or replacement of submerged equipment. Research is continuing to find ways to impede the quagga and zebra mussels' population growth, and reduce impact costs where they are already established, as well as to understand and mitigate the ecological impacts. Reclamation operation and maintenance activities will use maintenance periods to assess possible impacts as they look at infrastructure at the reservoirs, dams and power plants. Reclamation has developed Reclamation-wide and Regional task forces to address the issues and impacts of the infestation, participates in other interagency quagga and zebra mussel related meetings, and continues work with city, county, State, Federal and Tribal agencies to understand and quantify the level of system impacts and potential costs.

The FY 2019 budget supports the Department of Interior initiative entitled "Safeguarding the West from Invasive Species - Actions to Strengthen Federal, State, and Tribal Coordination to address Invasive Mussels" by utilizing support the framework established in the Quagga - Zebra Mussel Action Plan for the Western U.S. Waters submitted to the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force by the Western Regional Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species. Our work is being pursued in close cooperation with the Western Governors Association, and includes a focus on working with States and Tribes to keep invasive mussels from infecting the Columbia River Basin in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah. The Columbia Basin is the last major uninfected watershed in the United States. Regional estimates posit that a full-blown infestation in the region would cost its citizens $500 million annually in lost economic production, and higher electric rates, and would risk further endangered species complications. In this regard, $7.6 million will be devoted towards efforts and actions to address the following areas:

Increasing Capacity - Activities in this area will develop an increased capacity overall in both knowledge and staff supporting invasive mussels management.

Prevention - Will continue current regional activities on boat decontamination, and provide additional assistance to partners where appropriate on a case-by-case basis to prevent infestation. Additional funding may be used to purchase or construct inspection and decontamination stations on a cost-shared basis with appropriate recreation partners at Reclamation reservoirs.

Early Detection and Monitoring - Across Reclamation there is a consensus that water monitoring and sampling should continue and be expanded. The Science and Technology Program will support the Reclamation Detection Laboratory for Exotic Species (RDLES) lab to support this activity. Other examples of additional uses of funding include monitoring to continue and expand early detection and monitoring activities, or to increase frequency and distribution of sampling activities in the Columbia River Basin. Rapid Response - Reclamation may continue to support interagency teams and states in their responsibilities to declare infestation at water bodies, for purposes of enacting appropriate rapid response programs.

Containment and Control at Existing Facilities - Reclamation may continue efforts supporting boat inspection and decontamination at existing facilities to contain infestation where it currently exists.

Reclamation may increase funding to continue and expand control mechanisms where infestation has occurred in the Colorado River Basin, as increased containment and control in the Colorado River Basin is expected to help reduce risk and transmission to other basins particularly the Columbia River Basin which, to date, remains the only major river basin in the Western United States without the presence of invasive mussels.

Outreach and Education - Among similar endeavors, Reclamation may work with existing partnerships in the Pacific Northwest in order to increase coordination and collaboration with respect to invasive mussels in the Columbia River Basin.

Research - Reclamation may increase available funding for research projects focused on early prevention, detection and monitoring, as well as containment and control. To this end, Reclamation has two critical research projects already underway that support the initiative. First, Reclamation is developing a database of environmental conditions at Reclamation reservoirs. This database is expected to support identification of areas susceptible to mussel infestation. Second, utilizing existing information, Reclamation is developing an infestation risk model, the output of which will help identify where habitat conditions are most suitable for infestation. This model will help identify where prioritization of resources should occur for any increased early detection and monitoring activities, as well as prevention and outreach and education.