Second lake in a week to report presence of destructive mussels

Following on the heels of a report from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) that zebra mussels have been found in Marion Reservoir, biologists with the agency have now discovered a second lake infested with the aquatic nuisance species. KDWP biologists conducting a routine check of Lake Afton on Thursday, July 31, discovered two adult zebra mussels in the 258-acre lake, south of Goddard.

“Finding zebra mussels in two lakes within one week is disappointing to say the least,” said Jason Goeckler, aquatic nuisance species specialist for KDWP. “If people would just follow the precautions laid out in fishing regulations brochures, Kansas Wildlife & Parks magazine articles, and KDWP news releases, this could be prevented."

Goeckler explained three simple steps – clean, drain, and dry -- that can help prevent the spread of mussels from one infested lake to another:

  • never move fish or water from one body of water to another;
  • empty bait buckets on dry land, not into lakes;
  • inspect boats, trailers, skis, anchors, and all other equipment and remove any visible organisms and vegetation; and
  • wash equipment and boat with hot (140-degree) water, a 10 percent chlorine-and-water solution, or dry for at least five days to remove or kill species that are not visible.

Zebra mussel larvae are free-floating and microscopic, which enables aquatic users to unknowingly transport them between water bodies. Since they were first documented in El Dorado Reservoir in 2003, zebra mussels have spread to five other Kansas lakes, including Winfield City Lake, Cheney Reservoir, Perry Reservoir, and Marion Reservoir.

A highly opportunistic mollusk, the zebra mussel reproduces rapidly. Once introduced, new populations can expand quickly and cause great damage both economically and environmentally. Populations may become quite dense, and can be a serious problem for boats and water control structures. Zebra mussels attach to hard surfaces such as rocks, piers, and flooded timber. They may also attach to pipes, water intake structures, boat hulls, and motor lower units often clogging them to the point of malfunction.

The potential impact of zebra mussels on fisheries can be profound. Zebra mussels eat by filtering microscopic food from the water. Young fish and native mussels rely on this same microscopic food to survive.

Economic impacts are as grim as ecosystem impacts. Due to zebra mussels in intake/discharge pipes, municipalities, utilities, and industries have incurred significant costs associated with monitoring, cleaning, and controlling infestations. According to a recent economic impact study, nationwide expenditures to control zebra mussels in water intake pipes, water filtration equipment, and electric generating plants are estimated at $1 billion per year. Power generation alone expends $145 million per year. Often, these costs are passed along to customers.

What’s more, zebra mussels also have very sharp shells that can cut the unprotected skin of people and animals. Federal legislation has been passed to help prevent the spread of zebra mussels. If an individual is caught transporting live zebra mussels into Kansas, they may face up to six months in jail and fines up to $5,000.

White perch, another aquatic nuisance species, was discovered in Lake Afton in August of 2007. More information on zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species is available at the KDWP website.