The zebra and quagga mussel populations in South Dakota have grown in number, prompting the state's Game, Fish & Parks Commission to employ stronger strategies against the invasive species. This time, the commission is looking into boat inspections in an effort to curb the spread of zebra and quagga mussels in South Dakota's public waters.

Zebra mussels were first discovered in South Dakota in November 2014 while quagga mussels arrived in the state first, found earlier last year in September. As the species can accidentally be spread by water and vegetation by watercraft that have been in infected waters, boat inspections as additional measures in deterring the spread of the mussels makes a lot of sense.

According to Gary Gensen, a commissioner from Rapid City, boat inspections would mean stopping boats and trailers along state borders to facilitate restrictions on the invasive species.

At the same time, new regulations have been proposed, with the commission agreeing to recommendations, like water in boats will be kept to five gallons sourced from live wells and free of vegetation and all drain plugs will be kept open.

A public hearing is scheduled for Mar. 2, coinciding with the commission's next meeting where further measures will be discussed while some will be finalized after taking into consideration comments from residents in the area.

Invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels are dangerous to public waters because they can clog water intakes, affecting state supply systems and causing major repairs. They can also overrun water structures like dock support and piers, leading to eventual property damage.

Zebra mussels were first spotted at the Lewis and Clark Lake, a reservoir managed jointly by the South Dakota and Nebraska Game, Fish and Parks commissions. Heavily used for recreation, the lake is classified into 27 areas for swimming, hunting, fishing and boating.

After the discovery of a zebra mussel, the Lewis and Clark Lake was designated a lake suspected of the mussel species, as mandated by the Western Regional Panel Policy. The lake will keep its designation for at least three years although sampling results don't reveal the presence of additional zebra mussels.

Allison Zach from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said the best way to keep invasive mussels from spreading is through the "Clean, Drain and Dry" protocol, which involves removing all organisms and vegetation from all boats and equipment, draining all watercraft completely, flushing the boat's engine with water and keeping watercraft and all equipment dry for 5 days before entering a body of water.

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