Brazos River Authority officials are asking the public for help protecting the lakes of the Brazos basin – and the rest of the state – from the spread of a devastating invasive species.
The Authority is joining the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in trying to get the word out that highly invasive zebra mussels have been found in Lake Texoma, on the Texas-Oklahoma state line, and in a stream that feeds Dallas-area’s Lake Lavon. Since Brazos basin lakes such as Possum Kingdom, Granbury and Limestone are also popular with visitors to these infested North Texas water bodies, the Authority is cautioning boaters to use extra care when traveling between lakes.
The mussels, which originated in Russia, have spread to lakes across Europe and in 29 states. In April 2009, the mussels were found in Lake Texoma and the headwaters of Lake Lavon. Thus far, zebra mussels have not been found in other Texas lakes, including those overseen by the Authority.
Zebra mussels reproduce rapidly and are very good at filtering out nutrients that are an important part of the food chain that sustains fish and other lake life. They also can clog pipes that supply customers who depend on lake water. The mussels and their larvae spread by sticking to watercraft that have been in infested lakes.
Currently, the only way to avoid these unwanted hitchhikers is for boat owners to be responsible and inspect, clean, drain and dry their boats before moving them from Texoma and Lavon lakes to another water body.
“Zebra mussels have the ability to attach to any hard surface left in the water — boat motors, docks, pipes and even cans and bottles,” said Brian Van Zee, regional director for TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Division. “The larval stage of zebra mussels can also be carried in water left in livewells or bait buckets.”
Anyone transporting a vessel used on Lake Texoma to another water body is asked to take the following precautions.
1. Clean all vegetation, mud, algae and other debris from the boat and trailer.
2. Drain all water from the motor as well as the livewell, bilge, bait buckets and any other compartments or systems that hold water.
3. Dry the vessel and associated equipment for 7 to 10 days from May through October or for 15 to 20 days from November through April. These drying times are approximations, and factors such as cooler air temperatures, higher humidity and whether or not the vessel is kept in dry storage should be considered.
Boats and other vessels that have been kept on Lake Texoma for an extended time and are infested with zebra mussels may require additional cleaning procedures, including power-washing with water that is at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit and flushing the motor, bilges, live-wells and other water intake systems with 140-degree water. To be effective, the water coming out of the flushed systems needs to reach 140 degrees to ensure the entire system was exposed to water hot enough to kill the mussels.
If it is not possible to clean internally using 140-degree water, using straight vinegar or a chlorine bleach and water solution (one-half ounce bleach to one gallon water) can be effective at killing zebra mussels as long as the mixture is kept in contact with the mussels for 20 to 30 minutes. Clean water should be used to flush the chemicals and dead mussels from the boat following treatment. Boat owners should check with their manufacturer to be sure using these chemicals will not void their warranties.
Under the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Penal codes, possession or transporting of zebra mussels in Texas is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, jail time up to 180 days or both.