Though zebra mussels have recently been discovered in North Texas waters, officials at the marina at Ray Roberts Lake say the destructive creatures are not at the marina — yet.
Marina workers, state officials and water distributors are monitoring the situation and preparing for a fight to deal with the invasive creatures, whose reproduction and movement into bodies of water in southern Texas can be slowed but, so far, not eradicated.
“We take extensive precautions with any boat that comes in,” said Sherri Williams, co-owner of Lake Ray Roberts Marina in Sanger.
Williams said they will question boaters about their latest stops, and if the boats are from Lake Texoma or Lake Murray in Oklahoma, they will be quarantined for a number of days.
“It has to be high-temperature pressure-washed and that will kill any mussels existing and any larvae, and the boat has to stay out of the water for three weeks,” she said, adding that the pesky creatures inevitably will make an appearance at the marina.
“You have to try and take the precautions, but the big problem is the small boats, the fishing boats going from lake to lake, especially for fishing tournaments,” she said. “There are guidelines — you need to wash your boat before taking it to another lake, but it’s an honor system, so we don’t know.”
State park officials confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in Ray Roberts Lake on Wednesday.
The mussels, while usually only a quarter-inch long, are known to multiply rapidly, coat boat hulls, suffocate native species in the lake and bloody swimmers’ feet.
Jim Coulter, assistant city manager with the city of Denton, said Denton Water Utilities officials will initiate a monitoring program to detect the presence of the mussel at city facilities.
“We do not anticipate having to provide treatment in year one, but we will be ready should this need arise,” he said.
Coulter said it is unknown how quickly the mussel may become problematic and, depending on the severity of the infestation and the size of the facility, repair costs could range from several hundred thousand dollars per year to a million dollars per year.
James Kennedy, regents professor in the Department of Biological Sciences’ environmental science division at the University of North Texas, said zebra mussel reproduction has some things working against it, including temperature.
“Our reservoirs are much warmer than areas they come from,” he said. “Originally it was not thought they would make it this far, but they are moving farther south.”
Originating from Eastern Europe, zebra mussels were first found in Lake St. Clair, Mich., in 1988. They have been found in more than 600 lakes and reservoirs in 29 states. Ray Roberts is the second Texas lake found to have zebra mussel colonies and the first in the Trinity River basin.
Park officials made the discovery after an analysis of water samples taken from 14 North Texas reservoirs — 12 of which came back negative — turned up DNA evidence of the species.
“It will affect anyone who has water responsibilities … recreation water, flood control water or drinking water like we do,” said Tom Taylor, executive director of the Upper Trinity Regional Water District. “I don’t see anything in the foreseeable future that will control them. We just have to deal with them. I think most water people know how to deal with it; they don’t want to deal with it, but I don’t think we have a choice.”
Since the Upper Trinity Regional Water District takes water from Lewisville Lake, which periodically takes water from Ray Roberts Lake during floods and other times, Taylor said he suspects Lewisville Lake will be the next zebra mussel home.
Upper Trinity Regional Water District officials anticipated the zebra mussels and similar critters when the pipeline was built. The water district installed a system that includes screens and high-powered air blasts that keep the screens clear, Taylor said.
“In the worst situation, we’re somewhat prepared,” he said.
Future work to deal with the problem could result in extra work, extra costs and extra inconvenience, he said.
But Taylor is hopeful someone can find a solution to the problem, and soon.
“Any enterprising inventor who can figure a way to repel these critters will be rich overnight. There has to be something out there, whether it’s a sound, odor, a vibration,” he said. “There has to be something someone can invent.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is email@example.com .