Quagga mussels’ spread creates quandary

The enemy is invisible to the naked eye and exists in numbers hard to comprehend – hundreds of trillions of them at every depth and in every cove.

In the five years since they were first discovered in Lake Mead, the population of invasive quagga mussels has grown tenfold.

UNLV researcher David Wong estimates that more than 1.5 trillion adult quaggas and 320 trillion microscopic mussel babies now populate the reservoir.

That’s 80 to 160 quaggas for every gallon of water in the nation’s largest man-made lake. If mussels were dollars, there would be enough of them to pay off the national debt 20 times over, with a few trillion bucks to spare.

“They are everywhere in the lake,” says Wong, one of the nation’s leading experts on the aquatic invader. “Almost every single rock has some mussels on it.”

With no hope of eradication, Wong and other researchers are focused on protecting vital underwater infrastructure and keeping quaggas from spreading to other waterways.

This weekend, the chips are stacked against them.

Memorial Day marks the first big boating weekend at Lake Mead, and it falls smack in the middle of a huge reproductive spike for the mussels.

If boaters aren’t careful, they could wind up taking quaggas home with them and never know they are doing it, Wong says.

The real threat is the babies, also known as veligers. Invisible but plentiful, they could – and likely do – exist in even the smallest puddles of lake water.

Under the right conditions, veligers can survive for as many as 27 days and be spread on life jackets, waders, swimsuits or even the bumper of a car that is backed into the lake to drop off a boat.

Experts recommend draining all boating gear, cleaning it with hot water and then leaving it out to dry for at least five days in the summer heat.

The key, Wong says: “Don’t bring Lake Mead water home or to another lake, river or stream.”

AN EXPENSIVE PROBLEM

Each mussel is usually no bigger than a man’s thumbnail, but their dense and fast-growing colonies have caused billions of dollars in damage and preventive maintenance costs in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere in the eastern half of the country.

Wong says quaggas are native to the Ukraine, but have spread across Europe. They arrived in the Great Lakes in the early 1980s, most likely in the ballast water of a ship.

Left unchecked, they can clog water pipelines, power plant cooling systems and marine equipment.

Wong believes the mussels likely arrived in Lake Mead sometime before the summer of 2005, at least 18 months before anyone noticed them.

Until then, the bivalve mollusk with the striped shell had never been found west of the Mississippi River.

They have since spread to lakes Mohave and Havasu downstream from Hoover Dam and into water systems in California and Arizona.

Wong says two dozen reservoirs in the San Diego area now have quaggas in them. They were likely delivered there as babies in water released from Lake Mead and diverted to Southern California.

“It seems like anywhere the Colorado River flows, the quaggas go,” says Leonard Willett, quagga mussel coordinator for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation at Hoover Dam. “It’s been a good delivery system, and they have followed it.”

They have also tried to colonize the dam itself, but they have not impacted power or water deliveries.

Willett says the little “bio-foulers” are more of a nuisance than anything. “If your radiator starts getting plugged your car overheats. It’s just an additional maintenance issue.”

In 2009, the bureau began installing microfiltration screens to keep mussels out of the dam. Willett said the agency plans to spend about $800,000 a year for the next decade on quagga counter­measures.

The mussels are also an issue – but not yet a major problem – for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which draws 90 percent of the valley’s drinking water through two intake pipes in Lake Mead.

Spokesman J.C. Davis says the region’s wholesale water supplier anticipated the problem and installed countermeasures before the first mussels were found in the lake.

Davis says the authority now injects a low-dose chemical solution into the water at the mouth of the two intakes to keep quaggas from colonizing its pipes. Both the chemical and the quaggas get scrubbed from the water when it is treated for delivery to the valley.

HAS SHELLS, WILL TRAVEL

As far as Wong is concerned, Lake Mead is a lost cause. It’s too big and the mussels too widespread to have any hope of eliminating them altogether.

“But that doesn’t mean we are not going to do anything,” he says.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has teamed with the water authority, Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service and the Nevada Department of Wildlife to study quaggas and test ways to stop them.

The methods tried so far include ultra­violet light, X-rays and a variety of chemicals. Wong and others have also tested different materials to see which ones are least likely to attract quagga colonies. He is now studying whether adding silt to water can choke the mussels out.

One of the most effective and ecofriendly treatments is to spray quagga beds with water heated to about 140 degrees, Wong says. It kills the mussels quickly without leaving any chemicals behind.

“We have to take care of the environment as well,” he says from his lab on the UNLV campus. “You don’t want to solve the problem but create another catastrophe.”

If there is good news, it’s this: Wong believes the quagga numbers in Lake Mead are unlikely to keep building as they have over the past five years. The current thinking is that the population will plateau or decline within the next 10 to 12 years, as the filter-feeding mollusks outgrow their food supply.

But the quagga has defied expectations before.

Rick Ianniello is a UNLV graduate student working under Wong. His research is focused on the mussels’ reproduction patterns in lakes Mead and Mohave, where the species goes through two major spawning spikes a year instead of the one it experiences elsewhere.

As a result, Ianniello says, “They’ve expanded across the lake a lot faster than we’ve seen anywhere else.”

Depth and darkness doesn’t seem to bother them either. Ianniello says they have been found as far down as 300 feet.

“The crazy thing is how many of them are out there. What are they eating?” he says. “Every rock and hard surface is just covered with them, especially in Lake Mohave. There’s just mussels stacked on top of mussels.”

By way of proof, Ianniello pulls a zip-lock plastic bag from a laboratory freezer marked “Dr. Quagga.” Inside the bag is a layered mass of mussels almost the size of a football. It is perched on top of a single, flat stone less than an inch thick and no bigger than the palm of your hand.

So can the quagga be conquered? Ianniello isn’t optimistic.

“I think it’s possible. It’s more likely we’ll be able to do that than get rid of them completely,” he says. “But the lake is gigantic, and it’s in two different states. You can take your boat out at 3 in the morning and no one is going to catch you.”

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
The world's longest racetrack could be coming to Pahrump
Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club in Pahrump might be the first racetrack in the world longer than 16 miles long once the expansion is complete. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Gold Point townsperson talks about why he choose to live in a ghost town
Gold Point townsperson Walt Kremin talks about the ghost town in Nevada he calls home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Search for missing 3-year-old boy at Sunset Park
Las Vegas police and Red Rock Search and Rescue team search for a missing child at Sunset Park in southeast Las Vegas on Sunday, Sept.2, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai speaks at Las Vegas tech conference
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban on her way home from school in Pakistan after advocating for girls' education, spoke at VMworld 2018 at Mandalay Bay. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren addresses Oct. 1 lawsuits
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren addresses criticism his company has received for filing a lawsuit against the survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father recalls the night his 14-year-old son died jumping into moving traffic
From the Clark County Detention Center, Ezequiel Anorve Serrano talks about the night his 14-year-old son, Silas Anorve, died jumping into moving traffic on U.S. 95. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Palace Station unveils new sports book
Palace Station talks about the new sports book Thursday, August 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
One of world's longest racetracks planned in Pahrump by 2020
The racetrack will be 16 miles long by the year 2020 according to Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club owner John Morris. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Henderson police bodycam footage of officer-involved shooting
Henderson police released body-worn camera footage of an officer-involved shooting in a grocery store parking lot at 2667 Windmill Parkway on Aug. 12, 2018. (Henderson Police Department)
Robotics takes off at Las Vegas Academy
Las Vegas Academy’s robotics team made it all the way to the world competition last year, the first year the team competed. Zackary Perry describes how they programmed their robot to compete. The team is an example of what Tesla wants to have in every school in the state. (Meghin Delaney/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bicyclist suffers major head trauma in hit-and-run
A bicyclist was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after a Thursday morning hit-and-run crash near the school formerly known as Agassi Prep. Police said the bicyclist was hit by a white SUV, which fled the scene. The injured man suffered multiple injuries including major head trauma. As of 9 a.m., Lake Mead remained closed between Martin Luther King and Revere Street while police investigate.
Las Vegas artist Dave Dave dies at 42
Dave Dave talks about his art and his life in 2016. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dave Dave, whose dad set him on fire in 1983, dies
Dave Dave, a respected Las Vegas artist who was badly scarred as a boy when his father tried to burn him to death in Southern California, died at Sunrise Hospital on July 15. He was 42. When he was 6, Dave's father tried to kill him by setting him on fire. He was given a sleeping pill and his bed at a Buena Park, California, motel was doused with kerosene. “I remembered being in a lot of pain,” Dave told the Review-Journal in 2016. “When stuff happens to you at that young of an age, you tend to block it out, but I remember the pain was excruciating.” Dave, who was born David Rothenberg, became close friends with Michael Jackson, who met him after the attack, which burned more than 90 percent of his body. “I wanted to meet him, and he wanted to meet me, and that just turned into a lifelong relationship that never ended,” Dave said. “It was amazing being friends with Michael Jackson. He was an amazing person.” Dave attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, and collaborated with various artists around Las Vegas, eventually selling his art to private collectors. Despite his challenges, he continued to live, thrive and create. Dave Dave
Homicide detectives investigate woman's death
Las Vegas police were called to Tahiti Village Resort early Wednesday after calls that someone had been shot. Police found a woman’s body between a parking garage and boiler room on the resort's property. A guest first reported hearing gunfire. There are no witnesses, but police will examine surveillance videos and look for clues. The woman was not identified, but a purse was found near the body. She did not appear to be a guest at the resort.
LVMPD Discusses Ross Dress for Less Shooting
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank discussed the 15th officer-involved shooting of the year at a press conference at Metro headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The active-shooter incident took place at the Ross Dress for Less store at the 4000 block Blue Diamond Road in the south Las Vegas Valley. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like