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Pitch in to control zebra mussels

Someone mentioned the other day that the onslaught of zebra mussels in area lakes would make a good science fiction thriller.

We think it’s been done, and in this case, truth is more frightening than fiction anyway.

The threat posed by celluloid creatures from the deep might seem scary in a darkened theater, but the possibility that zebra mussels could disrupt the local water supply is a very real and troubling problem.

Since they were first found in Lake St. Clair just outside Detroit in 1988, zebra mussels have spread quickly and have now been found in more than 600 lakes and reservoirs in 29 states, including four in Texas — Texoma, Ray Roberts, Lewisville and Bridgeport.

Confirmation of zebra mussels in Ray Roberts Lake and in Lewisville Lake have Denton officials looking at ways of dealing with the destructive creatures and the likely event of them affecting Denton’s water supply operations.

“So far we haven’t had any real infestation or operational complications, but we expect that will occur sometime in the future,” said Tim Fisher, the city’s assistant director of water utilities. “You will not be able to control them in the lake. The question is can you control them in your intake? Is that control preventative or responsive and reactive?”

The discovery in Lewisville Lake was a small juvenile zebra mussel only 4 to 4.5 mm in size. But Brian Van Zee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said it could be an indication there are larvae just now settling and that the numbers could increase.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced Thursday that zebra mussel larvae have been confirmed in Lake Bridgeport. Two lakes downstream of Bridgeport — Eagle Mountain and Worth — are at risk and are being monitored.

Van Zee said officials are redoubling their efforts to get the word out about the preventative measures boaters can take to stop the spread of the zebra mussels, encouraging them to “clean, drain and dry.” Taking a few minutes to check over a boat after it leaves the water could potentially help stop the spread of the mussels to other lakes.

The threat posed by zebra mussels might not seem as immediate or as serious as the drought conditions that are forcing most area cities to impose tighter restrictions on water usage, but we caution readers not to grow complacent about either situation.

And it is becoming ever more clear that our cooperation — whether it is conserving water in homes and businesses or taking the time to check our boats after we visit an area lake — must be an ongoing effort.

As Van Zee told us when discussing the efforts to control zebra mussels, we can’t turn back the clock and never have to deal with them.

“Once they get established, there is no way to completely eradicate them,” he said. “That’s where the real frustration is. You try and get the word out, but not everyone listens.”

The time has come to listen. The North Texas water supply is a precious resource that must be protected, and each of us has to act responsibly.