July 30, 2008

Zebra Mussels Invade Marion

By Michael Pearce, The Wichita Eagle, Kan.

Jul. 30--Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks officials said Tuesday that zebra mussels were found Monday in Marion Reservoir.

Marion becomes the third reservoir near Wichita where the mussels have been found since 2003. Jason Goeckler, Wildlife and Parks aquatic nuisance species coordinator, said only one mussel and some larvae were detected.

He projects a population explosion and problems in coming years.

Zebra mussels are prolific and have been known to clog intakes at water and power plants. They also out-compete native fish and mussels for food.

There's no feasible way to eradicate them from large waters like Marion Reservoir.

"People going to the lake probably won't see anything this year," Goeckler said. "It may be the fall of next year before they start noticing them. After that, they probably won't be hard to find."

The towns of Marion, Hillsboro and Peabody draw much of their water from Marion Reservoir, about 60 miles northeast of Wichita.

Zebra mussel larvae are expected to flow from the reservoir down the Cottonwood River and into the Neosho River.

Goeckler said the mussels would almost certainly show up in John Redmond Reservoir, which the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant uses.

"There are also so many small towns downstream (on the Neosho River) that I can't possibly name them all," he said.

Zebra mussels were imported to the Great Lakes region in the bilge water of European barges in the late 1980s and are now in more than 12 states.

Doug Jensen, an aquatic invader specialist with the University of Minnesota, said millions of dollars are spent annually in the Great Lakes to keep water intakes clean.

Most of their spread, including into Marion Reservoir, is blamed on carelessness by boaters and anglers.

"It means people weren't following directions. Someone didn't clean, drain and dry," Goeckler said of a nationwide educational program to get boaters and anglers to clean all boats and empty all water from bait buckets before going to another body of water.

Kansas' first case of zebra mussels was discovered along a small section of shoreline at El Dorado Lake in 2003. Two months later they were found lakewide.

They now number in the thousands per square meter. Their sharp edges are a hazard to swimmers and waders.

Last year, zebra mussels were found in Cheney Reservoir, where the Wichita Water Department gets much of its water.

Debra Ary, division engineer at the department, said it has yet to detect zebra mussels around its intakes at Cheney.

The mussels have also been found at Perry Reservoir in northeast Kansas and at Winfield City Lake.

Within the past few years they have also shown up at Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks and Lake Taneycomo, plus Oklahoma's Grand Lake of the Cherokees.

All are popular with vacationers, which increases the chances that adult mussels or larvae could be carried to other waters.

Goeckler said that doesn't need to happen.

He said anglers need to empty all bait buckets and boaters need to empty all bilge areas and livewells of water before they leave a lake.

Boat hulls also need to be thoroughly cleaned with a warm, soapy, high-pressure wash if they're to be launched again within a week.

Reach Michael Pearce at 316-268-6382 or [email protected]


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