Though small individually, the invasive zebra mussels can amass into colonies that take over a shoreline, clog water intakes, damage lakeside structures, and disrupt the natural environment. The best way to protect the upper Highland Lakes is through preventing the spread of the creature. Authorities say ‘clean, drain, and dry’ your boat every time you take it out of the water. Go to texasinvasives.org for more information. Courtesy photo
STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Lakes LBJ, Buchanan, Inks, and Marble Falls are zebra mussel-free, and city and county officials want to keep it that.
With Spring Break on the way, biologist Stephen Davis of the Lower Colorado River Authority offered this tip for boaters: clean, drain, and dry watercraft before and after putting them in the water.
Zebra mussels are an invasive species that can wreak havoc on docks, water intakes, lakeside structures, native aquatic habitat, and shoreline structures. Though small individually, zebra mussels amass in such numbers that they become major hazards and cause serious problems for the environment and people.
The LCRA and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have confirmed an infestation of the species in Lake Travis.
According to Davis, boaters should “remove mud and foreign objects before, during, and after” exiting the water and docks. Also, they should open and dry all compartments and leave them open to dry further by air.
“Clean, drain, and dry is the most surefire way to prevent any animal or plant that’s invasive to a water,” he said.
Drain your watercraft’s bilge, live well, motor, and other water-containing devices before leaving water access.
Other protective measures include:
• Dry everything with a clean towel after use or wait five days before putting the watercraft back in the water.
• Anglers should dispose of unwanted bait, worms, and fish parts in trash cans.
• Never dump fish or organisms from one body of water into another.
Zebra mussel larvae are microscopic and easily transported unseen in live wells or bilges.
Davis compared it to hunting for a needle in a haystack.
“Once they’re in, they’re not going to stick to one part (of the lake system),” Davis said. “Over time, they’ll make their way through the entire water.”
He noted there’s no miracle cure to rid a lake of zebra mussels short of hurting the entire ecosystem.
Zebra mussels get into water intakes at water plants and clog them up, said Granite Shoals City Manager Jeff Looney.
“You have to have divers come in and knock them off,” he said.
In Granite Shoals, public boat ramps into Lake LBJ have signs encouraging boaters to clean, drain, and dry their watercraft, Looney said.
“If you see anybody with zebra mussels on their barge, contact the authorities to make sure that doesn’t get into the lake,” he said.
“Education is more than half the battle,” Davis said. “Accountability would be the other half.”
He encourages boaters to share information on keeping watercraft clean with others.
“We want to protect the lakes we love,” Davis said. “We all want to do our part.”
Go to texasinvasives.org for more information on protecting the lakes against zebra mussels and other invasive species.