AUSTIN, Texas — Summer boating season is just around the corner, and a coalition led by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is launching a major public awareness campaign to inform boaters about how to prevent invasive zebra mussels from infesting new water bodies.
As some of the most heavily trafficked lakes in the state, the Highland Lakes are very susceptible to infestation and boater diligence is critical for prevention.
“Many of us grew up around the waters of the Colorado River — either on a pair of skis, behind the wheel of a boat or simply relaxing in a tube,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “The Highland Lakes are as much of a symbol of the grandeur of central Texas as Austin City Limits. Unfortunately, there are some unwelcome visitors who would love to get the chance to settle here as well. Zebra mussels are invasive and highly destructive organisms that can change the face of a water body and once they are here there is no feasible way to get rid of them.”
Originally from Eurasia, these rapidly reproducing mussels have serious economic and recreational impacts to Texas reservoirs. They can clog water intake pipes, damage boats and motors by attaching to boat hulls and clogging water-cooling systems, completely cover anything under water and litter the shoreline with their sharp shells.
Zebra mussels have been found in seven lakes in Texas since they were established in Lake Texoma in 2009. Other infested lakes include Lake Ray Roberts, lakes Bridgeport, Lavon, Lewisville, Belton, and most recently in Lake Waco.
TPWD and a coalition of partners are working together to remind boaters to “Clean, Drain and Dry” their boats, trailers, and gear before traveling to another water body. By law, boaters are required to drain water from their boat and all receptacles on board when traveling on a public roadway to or from a public water body. It is also illegal to possess or transport any aquatic invasive species in Texas.
The partnership, which includes river authorities, water districts and municipalities across the state, has invested more than $400,000 in this year’s advertising campaign which is the largest investment in public awareness since zebra mussels were discovered in Texas.
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), which manages water from the Highland Lakes, is joining the effort to keep zebra mussels from spreading.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep zebra mussels out of the lakes, but we can’t do it alone,” said Phil Wilson, LCRA general manager. “Zebra mussels can damage a lake’s ecosystem, clog water intakes and cause operational issues for dams. We need every boater to do their part to help keep our lakes zebra mussel free by cleaning, draining and drying their boats.”Surveys conducted last year show that boaters that visit infested lakes travel to uninfested lakes throughout the state and are at high risk of unknowingly transporting this destructive species.”
Economically, zebra mussels have the potential to cause damage to drinking water facilities and electric power plants, with losses estimated to being in the millions of dollars annually.
From an environmental perspective, zebra mussels are filter feeders, which directly compete with baitfish such as shad for available forage. Any impact on baitfish in turn can affect their predators — including game fish. Zebra mussels are also very harmful to native mussel populations because they colonize their shells and essentially suffocate them.
Learn more about zebra mussels here.
Partners for this campaign include; the North Texas Municipal Water District; Tarrant Regional Water District; City of Dallas Water Utilities Department; Trinity River Authority; San Jacinto River Authority; Sabine River Authority; Brazos River Authority; Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority; LCRA; Upper Trinity Regional Water District; City of Houston; City of Grapevine; Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County; the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Sport Fish Restoration Program.