Boaters at all Texas lakes will be legally required to drain their boats, among other measures, to prevent the spread of zebra mussels.
Regulations that go into effect July 1 call for boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats after taking them out of the water and before launching their craft at another lake.
“Clean, drain, dry — those are pretty simple steps,” said Brian Van Zee, regional director with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division, adding that it doesn’t take a lot of time to follow the rules.
According to the state wildlife department’s website, possession or transportation of zebra mussels is a Class C misdemeanor for the first offense, punishable by a fine of up to $500. Repeat offenses can be elevated to a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, jail time up to 180 days, or both.
The regulations are in place in the hopes of keeping the invasive and destructive creatures from spreading beyond the six lakes where they are currently found — Texoma, Ray Roberts, Lewisville, Bridgeport, Belton and Lavon.
Van Zee said that while no adult zebra mussels have been found in Lavon Lake, a survey crew did discover larvae and DNA. He said it’s safe to assume there is a population in the water.
Brad Fuller, battalion chief with the Denton Fire Department and an avid boater, said he has been paying attention to the zebra mussel movement since they were discovered in Lake Texoma in 2009.
He noted seeing painted messages on boat ramps and signs around the lakes. Billboards have appeared in Denton County as well, including one alongside northbound Interstate 35E crossing the Lewisville Lake bridge.
Fuller questioned whether the resources exist to do what officials are asking.
“A lot of lakes don’t have a place for you to rinse your boat off; people wait till they get home,” he said.
Fuller also said officials can’t be sure out-of-state boaters will follow the new regulations.
“If I am going from one lake to the next, it is a major pain to flush mine out, but I bought the necessary equipment to do it,” he said.
Fuller is hopeful that wildlife officials can come up with a better method to mitigate the damage from the spread of the mussels.
Van Zee said that although there is no known way to fully treat and eradicate zebra mussels from an entire reservoir, the regulations can go a long way toward preventing their spread.
“That’s right in line with a much larger national campaign that fish and wildlife services in states across the U.S. are promoting as well — the ‘clean, drain, dry’ call to action,” Van Zee said. “Most boaters are indicating they in fact do do that. Obviously you can’t say it’s 100 percent, but far and away it’s effective.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.