A cost-benefit analysis of preventative management for zebra and quagga mussels in the Colorado-Big Thompson System




Zebra and quagga mussels are fresh water invaders that have the potential to cause severe ecological and economic damage. It is estimated that mussels cause $1 billion dollars per year in damages to water infrastructure and industries in the United States (Pimentel et al., 2004). Following their introduction to the Great Lakes in the late 1980s, mussels spread rapidly throughout the Mississippi River Basin and the Eastern U.S. The mussel invasion in the West is young. Mussels were first identified in Nevada in 2007, and have since been identified in California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Texas.

Western water systems are very different from those found in the East. The rapid spread of mussels through the eastern system was facilitated by connected and navigable waterways. Western water systems are less connected and are characterized by man-made reservoirs and canals. The main vector of spread for mussels in the West is overland on recreational boats (Bossenbroek et al., 2001). In response to the invasion, many western water managers have implemented preventative management programs to slow the overland spread of mussels on recreational boats. In Colorado, the Colorado Department of Wildlife (CDOW) has implemented a mandatory boat inspection program that requires all trailered boats to be inspected before launching in any Colorado water body. The objective of this study is to analyze the costs and benefits of the CDOW boat inspection program in Colorado, and to identify variables that affect the net benefits of preventative management.

Predicting the potential economic benefits of slowing the spread of mussels requires integrating information about mussel dispersal potential with estimates of control costs (Keller et al., 2009). Uncertainty surrounding the probabilities of establishment, the timing of invasions, and the damage costs associated with an invasion make a simulation model an excellent tool for addressing "what if" scenarios and shedding light on the net benefits of preventative management strategies. This study builds a bioeconomic simulation model to predict and compare the expected economic costs of the CDOW boat inspection program ot the benefits of reduced expected control costs to water conveyance systems, hydropower generation stations, and minicipal water treatment facilities. The model is based on a case study water delivery and storage system, the Colorado-Big Thompson system. The Colorado-Big Thomspon system is an excellent example of water systems in the Rocky Mountain West. The system is nearly entirely man-made, with all of its reservoirs and delivery points connected via pipelines, tunnels, and canals. The structures and hydropower systems of the Colorado-Big Thompson system are common to other western storage and delivery systems, making the methods and insight developed from this case study transferal to other western systems.

The model developed in this study contributes to the bioeconomic literature in several ways. Foremost, the model predicts the spread of dreissena mussels and associated damage costs for a connected water system in the Rocky Mountain West. Very few zebra mussel studies have focused on western water systems. Another distinguishing factor is the simultaneous consideration of spread from propagules introduced by boats and by flows. Most zebra mussel dispersal models consider boater movement patterns combined with limnological characteristics as predictors of spread. A separate set of studies have addressed mussel spread via downstream flows. To the author's knowledge, this is the first study that builds a zebra mussel spread model that specifically accounts for propagule pressure from boat introductions and from downstream flow introductions. By modeling an entire connected system, the study highlights how the spatial layout of a system, and the risk of invasion within a system affect the benefits of preventative management.

This report is presented in five chapters. The first chapter provides background information including a history of the zebra mussel invasion in the U.S. and in the West, and details about the Colorado preventative management program and the Colorado-Big Thompson system. The chapter also includes a literature review of mussel dispersal models and economic studies that address control costs and preventative management for aquatic invasive species. Chapter 2 presents the methodological approach used to analyze the costs and benefits of preventative management in the Colorado-Big Thompson system and provides details of the bioeconomic simulation model used to predict invasion patterns and the net benefits of preventative management. Results of the analysis and sensitivity testing of model parameters are presented in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 provides a summary of the analysis and conclusions. A discussion of the limitations of the model and areas for future research is presented in Chapter 5.

Additional publication details

Publication type Thesis
Publication Subtype Thesis
Title A cost-benefit analysis of preventative management for zebra and quagga mussels in the Colorado-Big Thompson System
Year Published 2010
Language English
Publisher Colorado State University
Publisher location Fort Collins, CO
Description xi, 185 p.