Infestation from Marion Reservoir was expected; mussels headed down Neosho River
PRATT β€” The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) has confirmed that zebra mussels have spread downstream from Marion Reservoir and into John Redmond Reservoir, east of Emporia on the Neosho River. Now zebra mussel larvae, called veligers, have been found below the John Redmond Dam, and KDWP is warning stakeholders and cities along the river to prepare for zebra mussels in their areas.

"Following the Marion Reservoir zebra mussel discovery in 2008, we knew the mussels would certainly make it downstream to John Redmond," said KDWP aquatic nuisance specialist Jason Goeckler. "After intensive sampling in the Cottonwood River for the last few years, we found veligers in the river at Emporia in July and now below Redmond this week. This is no surprise, but it's not good news. All downstream stakeholders should have a plan to deal with this problem. KDWP will post signs and provide technical assistance wherever needed."

The infestation not only poses a problem for all water users and municipalities along the Neosho, but also Coffey County Lake. Although currently not infested, this lake likely will be because water is pumped from the Neosho River to the lake. Wolf Creek Generating Station currently is not pumping, so signs warning of zebra mussel infestation will not be posted at the lake until pumping resumes and mussels are discovered.

The heart of any action plan to deal with zebra mussels is KDWP's "clean, drain, dry" procedure. This entails cleaning, draining, and drying all equipment β€” including boats, tackle, waders, and any other equipment used on the water β€” before moving it from one body of water to another. A detailed procedure for halting the spread of zebra mussels from one infested water to another includes the following steps.

Inspect all equipment for anything attached (plants, animals, and mud) and remove anything that is found.

Drain all water from equipment (livewell, bilge, bait buckets) before using at a different location.

Dry all equipment for a minimum of five days before using again. If you need to use it sooner, wash with hot (140ΒΊ) water.

Anglers should also remember that it is illegal to move fish or bait from one body of water to another.

To help stem the spread of zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species (ANS), KDWP has developed an online study and test site where water users can be wise users when it comes to ANS. Go to the KDWP website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us, and click "Fishing/Aquatic Nuisance Species" to learn all about these destructive species in Kansas and link to ANS Education Course and Voluntary Certification. Educational information is displayed in video, text, and image form. After reviewing this material, participants can take a quiz with scenario-based questions to test what they've learned. Those who complete the process can then print a certificate proving that they have taken this short course.

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.

Zebra mussels also have 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.