Mohave County has seen extremely warmer weather this winter. With temperatures in the high 80s for the Lake Havasu City area, many are concerned that these higher temperatures mean a much hotter summer. For Mohave County’s lake communities, these warmer temperatures could mean an above average boating season. “With Spring Break just a month away, it is important that boaters take the time to familiarize themselves with the safety of the water,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated.
The Lake Havasu Marine Association (LHMA) started a three state partnership program last year called the “Sticker a Mussel” program. It is the only known program in the United States to have a three state agreement. Agencies involved in the program include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, LHMA, Arizona Game and Fish, Arizona State Parks, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Nevada Department of Wildlife. It is available to all boaters to not only ensure the safety of their watercraft but to educate boaters about the dangers of invasive species.
According to a report done by the LHMA, as of February the “Sticker a Mussel” program has now “stickered” 8,640 total boats/trailers with 137 stickered this past January alone, nearly double that of a year ago. According to LHMA CEO/President Jim Salscheider, under the program each boat owner receives personal one-on-one information and a ‘sticker’ about invasive species prevention. The program is done through volunteers who work local launch ramps on weekends. Dozens of businesses throughout Lake Havasu also distribute invasive species information and place ‘stickers’ on the boat trailers. Boat owners’ license plate numbers are also recorded in order to monitor and verify activity.
According to Salscheider, the program was started for both educational purposes and to help streamline boaters crossing the border from Arizona to California. In prior years, boaters have complained of long inspection lines while trying to cross back into California. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in less than a year the number of boats quarantined at the California boarder has dropped to less than .10%. “Progress is being made through this program. Boaters are becoming more educated and drain plugs in the hull are becoming less frequent,” Salscheider stated.
Quagga mussels were first discovered in Arizona waters in Lake Mead in January of 2007. A single adult quagga mussel can produce a half-million larvae in a single year. According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s website, since being introduced in Lake Mead, likely from accidental transport on a boat put into that lake, the fertile invaders have spread rapidly. They are now seen in Lake Pleasant, Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, Lake Havasu, and the Lower Colorado River below Havasu to Mexico.
Quagga mussels are a danger not only for boaters but for the entire ecosystem of the water. According to Arizona Game and Fish, the quagga mussel will suck from water the phytoplankton that serves as the base of the food chain. In large enough numbers, they can disrupt ecosystems. “The Colorado River is our main source for water. It is important that we protect it from these invasive species,” Supervisor Johnson stated. “If enough quagga mussels were to invade our waters, it would cost more to filter out and clean it to ensure it is safe and healthy enough for drinking. A rise in quagga mussels would mean a rise in water costs for not only those in Arizona but also California and Nevada, both states who also depend on the Colorado River as their main water source,” Johnson continued.
According to Johnson, the “Sticker a Mussel” program has been a great benefit. “Boaters bring a great deal of revenue to Mohave County. It is sport that not only our visitors enjoy, but also residents. This program is helping to not only ensure the safety of our boaters, but it is also helping to ensure the continued usability of our lake,” Johnson ended.