Zebra mussels pose no imminent danger to lake

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, March 10, 2012

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Traces of zebra mussel have been found in several reservoirs across North Texas, including Lake Bridgeport.

But officials, including Lake Bridgeport Superintendent Richard Ellis, say the DNA found doesn’t pose an imminent danger.

“We don’t have zebra mussels,” Ellis said. “There is no concrete evidence of their existence. But we have been briefed on the issue and are taking necessary precautions. Because should it come to pass, it could become a problem.”

The invasive species can reproduce quickly, forming colonies that cause millions in damage by clogging both boating and reservoir equipment, and they can impact sport fish by depleting certain species. In addition, the sharp edges of a mussel shell can endanger swimmers.

As prevention, the Tarrant Regional Water District last month approved spending almost $700,000 to study the mussels and implement precautionary measures.

“It’s all preliminary,” Ellis said. “But what we’re going to have to do is do as much research to know what changes need to be made. Our maintenance procedures on valves and spillway gates and structures, should there be an eventual infestation, will change. There will be different inspections that will increase in frequency.”

Biologists first discovered the invasive species on Lake Texoma in 2009. Since then, zebra mussel DNA has been found on six area lakes including Bridgeport, Eagle Mountain, Lewisville, Ray Roberts, Arrowhead and Caddo.

The traces, however, aren’t enough to establish colonies capable of damaging lake equipment and harming swimmers.

But because of the proximity to infested waters and the mussels spreading presumably via watercraft, Texas Parks and Wildlife is proposing additional measures to prevent the spread of the species.

The department encourages boaters to clean their boats and trailers of all vegetation, mud and algae, drain water from motors, livewells, bilge and other sources of water retention and dry equipment for a week between uses in different water bodies (seven to 10 days in the summer or 15 to 20 days in the cooler months).

“It’s nothing I foresee being a problem in the near future for sure,” Ellis said. “In reality, it’s just a precautionary deal. There’s really no real threat. They’ve put us in the mindset that we need to do the research and be prepared.”

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