The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and other wildlife agencies unveiled on Thursday a “revolutionary” method for decontaminating boats and removing invasive quagga mussels.

The method, which was developed by Clean Wake LLC, utilizes what DWR calls a “first-of-its-kind dip tank ... that will revolutionize boat decontamination in the fight against invasive quagga mussels.”

The new tank will be transported from Ogden to Lake Powell and installed at the Stateline Launch Ramp at the Wahweap Marina, according to DWR officials, who say the tank will be operational beginning May 1.

“The new system will be a tremendous asset in our efforts to stop the spread of invasive quagga mussels,” Nate Owens, a DWR aquatic invasive species coordinator, said in a press release. “It will involve decontaminating boats with complex systems much faster, will require less training for our staff, will be more effective at ridding complex systems of quagga mussels and will ensure less damage to boats.”

The new tank is the latest effort by Utah wildlife officials to prevent the spread of the invasive quagga mussels, which clog water systems and have cost the state millions of dollars in infrastructure repair costs.

Failure to stop at an open aquatic invasive species inspection station after leaving a Utah waterbody is a class B misdemeanor.

In the press release, officials said that allowing boaters to back their watercraft into the 14-feet-wide, 5-feet-deep tank, which is installed with a filtration and pump system that will turn over the water in the tank every two hours, will be more efficient than “requiring personnel to climb around and under boats to manually spray hot water during inspections and decontaminations.”

“This is the first time this method is being used anywhere in the U.S., and we are excited to partner with the National Park Service at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to create a better experience for boaters at Lake Powell,” Owens said.

While DWR employees had discussed the decontamination internally for nearly a decade, the concept became concrete about five years ago when Garrett Atwood, founder of Clean Wake LLC, visited Lake Powell and “watched as the DWR staff worked in extreme heat to decontaminate boats of all shapes and sizes, many of which had intake systems that were far from standardized.”

“It seemed like a time-consuming and challenging process, and I thought there had to be a better way,” Atwood, who collaborated with the DWR aquatic invasive species team, said in the press release.

According to DWR officials, the new dip tank will primarily be used for wakeboard boats with “complex systems” and will be free to boaters. For other watercraft, the agency will continue utilizing standard hot-water spot decontamination methods.

Bruce Johnson, DWR aquatic invasive species statewide operations lieutenant, said that wildlife officials “are finding floating mussels and mussel shells that stick to boats as they are retrieved from the water at Lake Powell, so it is absolutely crucial for all boaters to comply with these inspections and to do your part to clean, drain and dry your boat or seek professional decontamination.”

“If quagga mussels get into water delivery systems in Utah, it will cost millions of dollars annually to remove them and keep the pipes clear, which could result in higher utility bills for every resident,” he said in the press release.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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