Mussel-sniffing dogs

Mussel-sniffing dogs will again be used on weekends at New Melones Reservoir beginning Friday to help prevent the invasion of harmful non-native freshwater species, such as quagga and zebra mussels.

Boaters at New Melones Reservoir will once again have to pass a sniff test before launching their vessels into the water on weekends this summer.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced on Thursday it’s bringing back mussel-sniffing dogs starting Friday that were first used last year to inspect boats for invasive-aquatic species, such as quagga and zebra mussels, which have been negatively impacting many recreational areas across the country.

“Scientists and engineers call quagga and zebra mussels ‘biofoulers,’ because they displace native species and coat and clog everything in their path, including boat motors and dam intake systems,” the bureau said in a news release.

Boats will not be allowed to launch at the reservoir if they fail the inspection or if they have been in a mussel-infested lake within the past 30 days based on the inspection and history provided by owners, the release said. 

Staff at New Melones will also provide boat inspection training to boat owners.

Invasive, non-native freshwater mussels that cling to boats and trailers have been such a concern that hundreds of thousands of power boat owners in the Golden State have been required to pay annual prevention fees for quagga and zebra mussel infestation since 2014.

All California-registered recreational vessels using freshwater bodies in the state are required to display Mussel Fee Paid stickers on their hulls next to current registration stickers. Each sticker costs $16. 

The sticker fee is due at the same time as initial vessel registration and it has to be renewed biennially every other year with vessel registration renewal. Vessels used exclusively in salt waters are exempt from mussel fees and mussel stickers. 

Funds from the mussel sticker fees are used for mussel monitoring, inspection, and infestation prevention programs.

Mussel self-inspection permits are also already required at New Melones,Don Pedro, Tulloch and McClure reservoirs. Each boater must display the self-inspection permit on their dashboard while parked with an empty boat trailer. 

Paying mussel fees and displaying mussel fee stickers on boats do not exempt boaters from displaying self-inspection permits.

Boaters are also asked to review California’s Division of Boating and Waterways Clean, Drain and Dry Boat Cleaning Procedures before transporting boats this summer.

The bureau provided the following guidelines for boaters to follow when entering or leaving any waterway to expedite the inspection process:

• Inspect all exposed surfaces; small mussels feel like sandpaper to the touch.

• Wash the hull of each watercraft thoroughly.

• Remove all plant and animal material.

• Drain all water and dry all areas (including the lower outboard unit).

• Clean and dry all live-wells and dispose of any unused bait in the trash.

• Empty and dry any buckets and compartments.

For additional information about New Melones Reservoir  visit the website at: http://www.usbr.gov/mp/ccao/newmelones/index.html.  

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