BELL COUNTY (September 26, 2013)—Invasive and destructive zebra mussels have been found in Lake Belton, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said Thursday.
Zebra mussels can plug public water supply intake pipes and harm boats and motors.
A Texas Mussel Watch volunteer found a small mussel attached to the shell of a mollusk called a Giant Floater on Sept. 18 and a follow-up survey determined that zebra mussels were well established through the lake.
“In fact, three size classes of zebra mussels were found in Lake Belton indicating that they were likely introduced to the reservoir sometime in 2012,” the department said in a press release Thursday.
In response to the discovery, an emergency order was issued to add both Lake Belton, Stillhouse Hollow Lake and portions of the Leon and Lampasas River to a list of water bodies covered by special rules intended to control the spread of zebra mussels.
Under the rules, boaters who drain boats and gear won’t be considered to be in violation of rules prohibiting possession of zebra mussels, the department said.
“The Lake Belton discovery underscores how critical it is for boaters all across Texas to get informed and involved to help stop the spread of zebra mussels,” said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries regional director based in Waco.
“Unfortunately, zebra mussel larvae, called veligers, are not visible to the naked eye. You could be transporting them on your boat and not even know it. This is why it’s particularly important to always clean, drain, and dry (boats) and gear before heading to another water body.”
State Rep. Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple, echoed the department’s concerns in a press release Thursday.
"It is unfortunate that our community's lake is faced with such a destructive invasive species. It is highly important for all boaters to follow the requests of TPWD to ensure the safety of our very own precious lake as well as the safety for all Texas lakes,” he said.
In Waco, the city and the Parks and Wildlife Department have launched a new survey of the lake in search of signs of the mussels and officials say a response plan is in place should they be found.
“We’ve been aware of the issue and tracking it for some time now,” said Waco Water Quality Manager, Tom Conry.
“There are no known eradication methods, once there is an established population, so we have tried to be as proactive as we could in terms of prevention and prepare for any eventualities.”