TEXOMA (CBSDFW.COM) – The threat of zebra mussels is so serious that the state has relaunched a campaign to get boaters to take extra steps to prevent the spread of the invasive water species.
At the start of the year only one North Texas reservoir, Lake Texoma, showed any sign of zebra mussel infestation.
Recent tests on 14 North Texas reservoirs shows Zebra Mussels appear to be contained to that lake, but state authorities still want boaters to take precautions to prevent their spread.
The pebble-sized zebra mussels are not native to Texas.
And wildlife experts are warning without your help, they could easily spread to other lakes.
“One adult zebra mussel is about the size of a dime or so,” said Brian VanZee with Texas Parks and Wildlife. “But one zebra mussel can spawn up to a million eggs a year. So they’re very prolific and they can spread very very quickly.”
How quickly? The mussels first appeared in the Great Lakes on one boat from the Balkans in 1988. Now they’re in the length of the Mississippi River and a problem in 29 states.
Texoma is the only affected Texas lake now. But if a boater puts in on Texoma they could just as easily put in on any other recreational Texas lakes.
In fact, zebra mussel DNA has been found in six Texas lakes but not at a level to indicate there are colonies there. Boaters could be carrying zebra mussels in a puddle of water and not even know it.
“The zebra mussel’s larvae are microscopic,” VanZee said. “You can’t see it with the naked eye.”
Texoma used to provide a third of the North Texas Municipal Water District’s water. Not anymore. Since it can’t draw water through Lake Lavon and other waterways without spreading the infestation, the district will have to build a special pipeline to the treatment plants.
“That pipeline will cost close to $300 million to get that supply back on line,” said Denise Hickey, Spokesperson for the North Texas Municipal Water District
A new Texas law now requires boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats. Bait wells, engines, fishing nets, even minnow buckets used on the banks. Wildlife experts say even the smallest amount of water introduced somewhere else from an infected waterway can be costly.
“Every year millions and millions of dollars are spent across the United States in simply trying to deal with zebra mussels and the problems they cause,” VanZee said.