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Help Texas curb zebra mussels

We hope area boat owners are paying attention — new regulations designed to help control the spread of zebra mussels go into effect July 1.

The regulations call for boaters at all Texas lakes to clean, drain and dry their boats after taking them out of the water and before launching their craft at another lake.

The regulations are being put in place in an effort to keep the invasive and destructive mussels from spreading beyond the six lakes where they are currently found — Ray Roberts, Lewisville, Bridgeport, Texoma, Belton and Lavon.

We caution those who may be tempted to ignore the new regulations. Officials are serious about controlling zebra mussels.

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.

Boaters already have enough to worry about with low water levels on many reservoirs — logs, stumps and other obstructions that were once underwater may pose serious threats in some areas — and the last thing they need is to forget about the new regulations and get ticketed.

Messages about the zebra mussel threat have been posted at some area boat ramps and billboards have appeared in Denton County, as well, including one alongside northbound Interstate 35E crossing the Lewisville Lake bridge.

However, some boaters have questioned whether the resources exist to accomplish what officials are asking because many lakes don’t have a place to rinse a boat, and others wonder if out-of-state boaters will follow the new regulations.

Those are valid questions, but boaters need to remember the seriousness of the issue at hand. Zebra mussels reproduce quickly and can clog pipes that bring water from lakes to homes. Stopping their spread is crucial.

“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.

Van Zee said that although there is no known way to fully treat and eradicate zebra mussels from an entire reservoir, the new regulations can go a long way toward preventing their spread.

We urge all boaters to heed the warnings about zebra mussels and take the proper steps, if they are not already doing so, and we remind them that the new regulations will extend the boat-cleaning measures to the entire state.

A little extra effort and financial investment may be required to comply, but the effort should pay off in the long run.

It’s a small price to pay to protect the privilege of using Texas lakes.