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  • Writer's pictureUte Water

Don't move a mussel: Ute steps up efforts to prevent invasive species from entering watersheds

Ute Water Conservancy District (District) has been hard at work protecting its Plateau Creek watershed on multiple fronts from invasive species this summer. On your next trip up to Powderhorn Ski Resort or to recreate atop the Grand Mesa, you will likely see new signs along the roadway with the message about protecting Ute Water’s drinking water supply reservoirs from the dangers of invasive mussels, an aquatic nuisance species (ANS).

Ute Water has partnered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Vega State Park, and the Bureau of Reclamation in the fight against invasive mussels. Quagga and zebra mussels are synonymous with Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Ute Water, along with many water providers, recognize the threat of aquatic nuisance species. If invasive mussels are found in Ute Water's collection system, it could lead to a change in the District's drinking water quality and the cost to treat water. Quagga mussels attach to almost any surface and can quickly colonize collection system infrastructure such as outlet structures and pipelines. Additionally, quagga mussels can produce a million eggs a year and can live up to five years, creating a reoccurring, long-term problem for water providers.

"Ute Water currently utilizes mussel traps to monitor for mussels," says Dave Payne, Assistant General Manager of Ute Water. "We came to the realization that is a proactive approach and prevention is the name of the game when it comes to invasive species and mussels." The signs have been designed with a simple message of cleaning, draining, and drying boat and trailers before launching on the Grand Mesa. Also known as "aquatic hitchhickers", most aquatic nuisance species have been introduced into Colorado’s reservoirs by boats and trailers that have been exposed to reservoirs or lakes that have tested positive for quagga and/or zebra mussels.

Signs are placed on Ute Water properties adjacent to Highway 65 and 59 Road outside of Collbran, which leads up to Bonham Reservoir. The signs were strategically placed along the routes from the Plateau Creek watershed to the Grand Mesa.

Assistant General Manager, Dave Payne, stands next to invasive species sign that will be placed strategically on the Grand Mesa.

In addition to the signage, Ute Water has also partnered with Vega State Park to purchase traffic spikes to restrict access to boat docks at Vega Reservoir to boats that have not went through the ANS invasive mussel check station located at the entrance to Vega State Park. The spikes will effectively eliminate boats that have not been inspected for mussels from launching on Vega Reservoir. Ute Water was eager to partner with Vega State Park further protect the largest reservoir in their Plateau Creek watershed.

Ute Water is administering a partnership in the Grand Valley testing for larval stage mussel in the Grand Valley's five major canals. The canals in the Grand Valley are susceptible to mussel introduction from the Colorado River. Sampling is funded by partnering Grand Valley water entities and conducted by Western Water and Land.

Ute Water is also partnering with the Bureau of Reclamation at the Molina Hydropower facilities in the fight against blue-green algae and algae blooms, and several state and federal agencies in in preventing forest fires by providing funding to finance fire mitigation measures in the Plateau Creek watershed.

For more information about the District's efforts to prevent invasive species from entering our watersheds, visit

Ute employees help protect watersheds by hanging signs encouraging boater to clean, drain, dry boats and trailers. From left: Adam, Todd, Lacey, Clay, and Tanner.



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