SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — Invasive quagga mussel larvae have been found in Green Mountain Reservoir in Summit County, prompting Colorado Parks and Wildlife to implement decontamination policies to prevent the growth and spread of the species.
The presence of the larvae, known as veligers, could lead to a major infestation, putting the reservoir’s hydroelectric power generation, water quality, drinking water delivery and recreation at risk.
The veligers were found by the Bureau of Reclamation through a microscopic examination and DNA testing earlier this month.
Scuba scientists as part of a program with the Denver Aquarium went into the reservoir between Silverthorne and Kremmling on Friday but did not find any mussels.
“Although this is very troubling, it’s important to keep in mind that the reservoir is not considered infested, a designation given only to bodies of water that have extensive and reproducing adult populations,” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
All boats going into the reservoir will continue to be inspected for mussels. After the discovery of veligers, all boats that leave the reservoir will also be inspected.
Boats that leave Green Mountain Reservoir for another body of water in the state must be decontaminated, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said.
No adult zebra or quagga mussels have ever been found in Colorado thanks to an aggressive inspection and decontamination program.
“This situation demonstrates the importance of following the law and going through the required inspection and decontamination process upon entering and exiting bodies of water,” said Reid DeWalt, assistant director of wildlife and natural resources with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“We could face the possibility of a very harmful infestation that could cause severe damage to the reservoir and its infrastructure.”
The hydroelectric power plant at the base of Green Mountain Dam can generate enough electricity to power about 68,000 homes a year.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials believe a boat from an out-of-state body of water using an illegal ramp could be responsible for the mussel veligers getting into Green Mountain Reservoir.
Boaters are asked by officials to clean, drain and dry their boats after each use.