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Destructive fresh-water mussels found in Lake Piru

Mollusks can cause millions of dollars in water infrastructure damage

Posted: December 30, 2013 5:44 p.m.
Updated: December 30, 2013 5:44 p.m.

Fresh-water mussels that can cause millions of dollars in waterway and pipeline damage have invaded Lake Piru, putting park officials at nearby Castaic Lake on heightened alert, state and county officials said Monday.

The discovery marks the first time the destructive mollusks, called quagga or zebra mussels, have been found in a Southern California water body that does not receive water from the Colorado River.

Lake Piru Recreation Area staff reported the discovery of potential quagga mussels to Fish and Wildlife officials on Dec. 18.

SANTA CLARITA - The mussels were found attached to a patrol boat, and several additional mussels were subsequently found on devices deployed in the lake for the purpose of detecting mussels, as well as on the shoreline.

The zebra mussel destroys aquatic ecosystems once it gains a foothold in a body of water, causing millions of dollars in damage to reservoirs, dams, pipelines, power plants and boats.

Its tougher cousin, the quagga mussel, is even worse, according to one Castaic Lake official. “They’re like zebra mussels on steroids,” lake Aquatics Manager Joe Walsh said in July.

Lake Piru is managed by United Water Conservation District and is not connected to the waterway that carries Northern California water to Southern California, and that includes Pyramid and Castaic lakes.

Lake Piru drains into Lower Piru Creek, a tributary of the Santa Clara River, but the water enters the river after it flows out of the Santa Clarita Valley.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $1.8 million project in June 2011 to fight the aggressive and invasive zebra and quagga mussels, which have infected waters from the Great Lakes to the Colorado River.

Since the supervisors’ vote, inspectors posted at Castaic and Pyramid lakes have been stopping every boater who shows up with a lake-bound vessel. They have turned away hundreds of boaters.

“There is always a concern (of mussel contamination) because they are so microscopic,” said Sgt. Bob Amstutz of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department during an interview last July.

Quagga and zebra mussels, native to Eurasia, multiply quickly and encrust watercraft and infrastructure and compete for food with native and sport fish species.

The mussels can be spread from one body of water to another attached to nearly anything that has been in an infested water body or in standing water from an infested water body entrapped in boat engines, bilges, live-wells and buckets.

People who launch vessels at any body of water are subject to watercraft inspections and are encouraged to clean, drain and dry their motorized and non-motorized boats, including personal watercraft, and any equipment that comes into contact with the water before and after use.

Quagga mussels were first detected in the Colorado River system in January 2007 and were later found in San Diego and Riverside counties. They are now known to be in 26 waters in California.

Zebra mussels were discovered in San Justo Reservoir in San Benito County in January 2008.

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on Twitter @jamesarthurholt



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