Thursday, June 12, 2014

Preventing the Spread of Zebra Mussels in the Lake of the Ozarks

Boating Season underway here at the Lake of the Ozarks and the Lake is swarming with boats. Vacationers come from all over to enjoy this beautiful area, so its important that we protect our waters from invasive and harmful species such as the Zebra Mussel.  These a fingernail-sized, black-and-white striped bivalve mollusks.  The Missouri Department of Conservation has some great information on this species and how to prevent the further spread of it.

History of the Zebra Mussel 

Zebra mussels came to North America in international shipping ballast water and were discovered in Lake St. Clair near Detroit in 1988.  Since then, they have spread rapidly throughout the Great Lakes and into the Mississippi River.  Zebra mussels were first reported in Missouri in 1991 in the Mississippi River.  It wasn't until after 1999 that they moved West of the Mississippi and were reported in the Missouri River and then the Meramec River.  It's suspected that barges originating in the Mississippi River transported attached adult zebra mussels upstream to these areas.  During the next several decades, zebra mussels could spread to other freshwater location in Missouri and throughout North America.

Problems Caused by Zebra Mussels

Female zebra mussels can produce as many as 1 million eggs per year.  These mussels then attach to any firm surface, clumping together to cover rock, metal, rubber, wood, docks, boat lifts at the Lake of the Ozarks, boat hulls, native mussels, crayfish and even aquatic plants.  Diving ducks, freshwater drum and other fish eat zebra mussels, but will not be able to control the large quantities of them on their own. The economic impact of this species is expected to be in the billions over the next decade.
Some problems these zebra mussels can cause include:
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  • Clogging Power Plants and Industrial and Public Drinking Water Intakes 
  • Foul Boat Hulls 
  • Decimate Populations of Native Freshwater Mussels
  • Impact Fisheries 
  • Disrupt Aquatic Ecosystems

Overland transport on boats, motors, trailers and aquatic plants poses on of the greatest risk for spreading zebra mussels.  Larger adult ones can live several days out of water in moist, shaded areas.  Boats that have been moored or stored in infested waters for more than a day or two may carry "hitchhiking" mussels attached to their hulls, engine drive units and anchor chains.  Zebra mussels can survive in boat bilge water, livewells, bait buckets and engine-cooling water systems, regardless of how long the boat has been in infested waters.  However, they will die very quickly when their hiding places are warmed in the sun or when they dry on the highway trip home.

Preventing the Spread of Zebra Mussels      

If you spend a lot of time on the water, whether boating, fishing, skiing, scuba-diving, sailing or canoeing, there are some important things you can do to prevent the transport of zebra mussels and other harmful species from lake or river to another.  In order to prevent the spread and to keep your own equipment from being fouled, please observe the following suggestions when transporting your boat from waterway to waterway:

  • Thoroughly inspect your boat's hull, drive unit, trim plates, trolling plates, prop guards, transducers, centerboards, rollers, axles, anchor, anchor rope and trailer.  Scrape off and trash any suspected mussels. 
  • Remove all water weeds hanging from the boat or trailer before leaving any body of water.
  • Drain water from the motor, livewell, bilge and transom wells, and any other water from your boat and equipment while on land before laving any body of water. 
  • Trash leftover bait on land, away from water, before leaving any body of water.  Leftover live aquatic bait that has come in contact with infested waters should not be taken to uninfested waters. 
  • When you get home, before launching your boat into uninfested waters, thoroughly rinse and dry the hull, drive unit, livewells (and livewell pumping system), bilge, trailer, bait buckets, engine cooling system and other boat parts that got wet while in infested waters.  Be sure to use a hard spraying garden hose. If your boat was in infested waters for a long period of time or you find attached adult mussels, use 104 degree water rather than cold water or tow the boat through a do-it-yourself carwash and use the high pressure hot water.  Do not use chlorine bleach or other environmentally unsound washing solutions. 
  • Boats, motors and trailers should be allowed to dry thoroughly in the sun for at least five days before boating again. 
  • In infested waters, the best way to keep a hull mussel-free is to run the boat frequently.  On boats that remain in the water, zebra mussels can attach to drive units, cover or enter water intakes and clog, overheat and destroy the engine. If possible, leave outboards or outdrives in the up position.  Periodically inspect hulls and drive units, and scrape free of mussels. Pump hot water through your engine's intake on a regular basis to prevent mussel growth inside the engine's cooling system.
  • Learn what these organisms look like (at least those you can see). If you suspect a new infestation of an exotic plant or animal, report it to your natural resource agency. 
  • Consult the agency for recommendations and permits before you try to control or eradicate an exotic "pest."  Remember, exotic "pest" species thrive on disturbance. Do-it-yourself control treatments often make matters worse and can harm native species.
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Summerset Boat Lifts is here for all your boat lifts needs! We pride ourselves in service, and it’s what sets us apart from everyone else. Summerset’s record of service after the sale is unparallel in the boat lift industry. We don’t just sell you a lift, we sell you our service.  Call our Lake of the Ozarks boat lift specialists today! Be surprised at how soon you may see a representative of Summerset Boat Lifts on your dock.  We want to earn your trust and your business!

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