SALT LAKE CITY – In an emergency action taken Thursday, the state wildlife board extended its lasso of boater-related restrictions over Sand Hollow Reservoir in order to control the infestation of invasive mussels.

The action came after a solitary adult quagga mussel was discovered at the Washington County reservoir in May, leading state wildlife biologists to ponder how that occurred.

"He must have hitchhiked in on a boat, but it makes you wonder how he got there, why he got there, and where his buddies are," said Larry Dalton. "They usually come in the hundreds of thousands. It's the darndest thing you ever did see."

Dalton, the state agency's aquatic invasive species coordinator, is passionate about holding the line, and more importantly, accomplishing the retreat of non-native water pests that threaten not only boaters' pleasure but also water systems.

The state spends nearly $1.4 million each year in a fight to control the infestation of zebra and quagga mussels, which get into water circulation systems as small as a trolling motor on an aluminum boat to the intricate infrastructure of Lake Mead or Lake Powell.

The havoc-wreaking mussels portend a water-related disaster for everyone that Dalton stresses could reach as high as $15 million as year for Utahns.

"This is not just a problem for boaters, not just for anglers, but for everyone in this state," Dalton said. "If we are fully infested, it will cost $15 million in increased maintenance costs. Every year we are able to hold them back, we're saving money."

The rule adopted by the board also extends restrictions to other coastal and inland waters, clarifying areas where boaters need to abide by controls that will curb the infestation.

Instead of specifying particular bodies of water in such places as Colorado, California and Nevada where infestations are confirmed, the rule assumes if the mussels have been found in one body of water, they are perhaps in all of them in the state, Dalton said.

"We don't believe every body of water in these states are all infested, but we believe they are so pervasive, that the ability of us to test all those waters is so hindered it would be impossible."

For more information, go to www.wildlife.utah.gov/mussels/

e-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com