Cave Creek Facing Expensive Invasive Mussel Removal

July 21, 2014

(Photo courtesy of Arizona Game and Fish Department)
Quagga mussels attach to hard surfaces like boats and water pipes.

Quagga mussels have made their way into Cave Creek water pumps, which may cost the town thousands of dollars to get rid of. The mussels are an invasive and non-native species to Arizona.

Quagga mussels can damage and clog pipes and valves. Salt River Project’s Senior Environmental Scientist Lesly Swanson says recreational boaters are the likely source of the problem.

“They’re hitchhikers. So they’ll be on the boat itself or on the trailer or in the piping of the boat. And the mussels can clam up or hold their breath for about 7 to 10 days and when the boat is put in a new body of water, they’ll still be alive," Swanson said.

Scott Bryan of the Central Arizona Project says quaggas appeared in Arizona in 2007 after infesting Lake Mead in Nevada.

“They pretty much infested the lower Colorado River from that time… including Lake Havasu. Lake Havasu is where our intakes are, that’s where we get our source water. So once it got into Lake Havasu, they spread across the CAP canal and into Lake Pleasant as well," Bryan said.

Bryan says the buildup in the CAP sources isn’t causing any problems for them and there is no indication of a larger problem in the Valley.

Cave Creek issued its first emergency alert earlier this month urging to cut back on water usage.

The mussel removal could cost the town of Cave Creek nearly $50,000 for emergency fixes.

Updated 7/21/2014 at 5:01 p.m.