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Clean boats to curb mussels

It’s that time of year again when we take our boats from dry dock and prep them for the boating season. Known by some longtime residents as the land of lakes, the North Texas region has numerous reservoirs that also serve as boating havens for those who enjoy fishing, water skiing, tubing and just a few hours lolling along the gentle waves in the middle of a lake.

What’s different this year is that Texas Parks and Wildlife Deparment officials are asking boaters to clean and drain their boats each time they use them to prevent the spread of zebra mussels.

Tests now confirm the DNA of zebra mussels is lurking in area lakes including Texoma, Ray Roberts, Lewisville, Bridgeport and Bob Sandlin. Though the pesky critters have been seen in Texoma and Ray Roberts, they have yet to be officially spotted in the other lakes. However, that is no reason to consider it safe to move boats from one body of water to another.

Zebra mussels are known to attach themselves to boat hulls, sneaking trips along with the boat to other lakes.

Texas Parks and Wildlife officials want boat owners to know there are two types of zebra mussels — the adult form visibly evident with their shells and the larval form, known as veligers, which do not have the shells and are often the type spread from one lake to another.

Boat owners who carelessly spread zebra mussels from one lake to another, and are caught, could face legal penalties that increase in fines and potential jail time with each incident. But more important, the pest is known for congregating in large quantities around intake systems at lakes, and this can cause significant problems for communities and industries relying on reservoirs for their water. Cleaning those water intake systems can cost millions of taxpayer dollars.

In this day of limited water supplies, drought and a burgeoning population, it is imperative that we do not allow zebra mussels to add to our long-term water challenges.

All it takes is adding a thorough cleaning to your maintenance “to-do” list at the end of each boat trip. While it might cost a little time up front, it could very well save money in the long run.