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Muscle vs Mussels: California's Campaign to Reduce Quaggas

California and federal officials are sizing up diverse strategies in their campaign to contain trillions of quagga mussels, dime-sized invaders threatening water and power supplies in California and across the Southwest.

Vivacious reproducers – a single quagga can produce 1 million eggs in a spawning season – the mussels quickly established colonies throughout the Metropolitan Water District's system tied to the Colorado River, as well as in San Diego County reservoirs, including San Vicente.

Left unchecked, quaggas can take over freshwater lakes and rivers, threatening to clog or damage plumbing, potentially squeezing water deliveries and limiting hydropower production.

Several solutions are currently being considered.

Most promising and closest to approval is a strain of common bacteria that is safe for humans, but produces a toxin so well disguised that it can sneak past a quagga mussel's self-defense mechanism of clamming up to protect itself from ingesting anything deadly.

Also being given tryouts are high-tech defenses, such as repellent coatings on pipes, ultraviolet light and quagga-trapping strainers with microscopic holes.

As a last resort, officials may consider introducing quagga-munching black carp, an aggressive invasive species. Already, dogs with a nose for quaggas hitchhiking on watercraft have joined the fight.

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