"Clean, drain, dry" keys to prevention; online video demonstrates prevention techniques

Last summer, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in Marion Reservoir. While the implications of this discovery are bad news for Marion, anglers and boaters need to be aware that the threat is not isolated to this lake.

Water from Marion Reservoir spills into the Cottonwood River, which in turn flows eastward toward John Redmond Reservoir, southeast of Emporia. From John Redmond, water is pumped into Coffey County Lake. Thus, zebra mussels from Marion Reservoir, about 50 miles north of Wichita in central Kansas, could threaten waters throughout the entire Neosho River Basin in southeast Kansas.

In addition to Marion, zebra mussels have spread to five other Kansas lakes (Lake Afton, Winfield City Lake, and Cheney, El Dorado, and Perry reservoirs), with John Redmond Reservoir and Coffey County Lake pending further tests. Other than downstream movement, much of this spread is due to careless human activity.

“Understanding the connection of river systems in Kansas clearly illustrates the danger of infesting just one body of water in the state with zebra mussels," says Jason Goeckler, aquatic nuisance species specialist for KDWP. "It's extremely frustrating because the spread of mussels can be prevented. Zebra mussels spread to lakes compounds the risk of downstream movement. All it takes is one irresponsible lake user to transport mussels from an infested lake to another water body. This occurrence is especially troubling because of the threat to the Cottonwood River, the Neosho River, and their tributaries, as well as all the people who use this river for water supply."

Goeckler emphasizes that it is "absolutely critical" that all boaters and anglers take necessary precautions to contain any future infestation of zebra mussels. His mantra for prevention involves three simple steps -- "clean, drain, and dry."

The following are steps to avoid transporting mussels from infested lakes to other waters:

  • 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.

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. These costs are usually 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.

KDWP photographer Mike Blair has recorded a two-minute instructional video to demonstrate the steps required to prevent further aquatic nuisance species (ANS) spread. The video shows just how easy it is for boaters to follow the three simple steps -- "clean, drain, dry" -- that only take about five minutes. More detailed information on stopping the spread of zebra mussels is also included.

To view the video, go to KDWP TV, then click on "Checking for Zebra Mussels." For more information on aquatic nuisance species, phone Goeckler at 620-342-0658 or email jasong@wp.state.ks.us.