SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — State officials are asking boaters launching a vessel on any body of water this weekend to be sure their watercraft is clean, drained and dry ahead of time to prevent the spread of invasive mussels.

Quagga and zebra mussels, which have infested 33 waterways in Southern California and two waterways in San Benito County, respectively, present threats to boater safety and the environment.

Zebra ( Quagga ) Mussels

Zebra mussels with a dime for scale. (California Dept. of Fish and Game)

The mussels can quickly encrust watercraft and infrastructure; alter water quality and the aquatic food web and impact commercial and sport fishing communities.

The mussels spread from one freshwater water body to another by attaching to boats, equipment and nearly anything that has been in an infested area, according to state officials.

Microscopic developing mussels are spread from infested waterways when they get entrapped in boat engines, bilges, live-wells and get on buckets.

State officials recommend boaters clean, drain and dry any equipment that comes in contact with water before and after recreating.

Three steps can help boaters protect cherished waterways from degradation.

First inspect exposed surfaces and remove all plants and organisms. Second, drain all water including water in lower outboard units, live-wells and bait buckets.

Third, allow the watercraft to dry for five days in warm weather and 30 days in cool weather before launching it again.

A video by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife showing how easy it is to perform the clean, drain and dry method can be found at this YouTube URL.

Also available: a guide to cleaning vessels of invasive mussels (PDF).

Travelers should be prepared for inspections of their watercraft at border protection stations.

State officials said inspectors may look at the vessel, trailers and onboard items.

Quagga and zebra mussels can ruin an engine, jam a boat’s steering equipment and require frequent scraping and repainting of hulls. Mussels can also colonize underwater structures such as boat ramps, docks and lines, requiring near-constant cleaning.

© Copyright 2017 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed


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