A discovery in a lake that straddles the Nebraska-South Dakota state line alarms Nebraska officials.
Zebra mussels have been found in Lewis and Clark Lake; first on the South Dakota side, then on the Nebraska side.
State Fisheries Division Assistant Administrator Dave Tunnik says the invasive species could cause problems as the mussels multiply, attach to concrete and plug pipes.
“The power districts are going to be very concerned, because it could possibly raise your electrical rates quite a bit because of the down time. They have to shut down the power plants to clean them out,” Tunnik tells Nebraska Radio Network.
It likely was just a matter of time.
Lewis and Clark Lake is fed by the Missouri River which been harboring zebra mussels for some time, with discoveries in Kansas City a few years ago.
This isn’t even the first time Nebraska has discovered the water pest.
In 2006, a population was discovered in the lake at Offutt Air Force Base just outside of Omaha. Efforts to wipe them out prove fruitless so Nebraska Game and Parks officials isolated them instead, keeping boats out of the lake. Zebra mussels discovered in Zorinski Lake in Omaha in 2010 were wiped out by lowering the lake level in winter and freezing them out.
Tunnik explains zebra mussels are an invasive species which came to the Great Lakes from the Baltic in Europe. They spread and cause problems.
Not only do they plague power plants, they reduce the food for fish, they coat boat docks, and create hazards on beaches.
Prevention is the key.
State officials hope boaters and anglers will cooperate to keep them from spreading beyond Lewis and Clark.
Tunnik advises letting your boat dry for at least five days once you pull it from infected waters.
“Drain it out. Dry it out. Wipe it out. Open up your doors and stuff and let it air out and dry out.”
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has issued the following precautions:
— By law, a boat that has been on a water body may not leave a launch area with water still present in any compartment, equipment or container that may hold water. Drain water on site. Dump any baitfish in the trash or at a fish-cleaning station on site.
— By law, a boat or trailer may not leave a launch area with any aquatic vegetation from that water body still attached.
— By law, a boat may not arrive at or leave any water body in Nebraska with water other than from a domestic source, except for fire-fighting purposes.
— Clean, drain and dry your boat. Zebra mussels can survive out of water for up to two weeks. After boating in infested water and before launching your boat in a different water body: pressure wash the boat with hot water (preferably more than 140 degrees F) and rinse equipment with hot water. Run water out of the lower unit upon exiting the water body. Spraying the boat and live wells with vinegar and letting it soak for 20 minutes can also kill zebra mussels. The best way to prevent the spread is to allow the boat, all compartments and equipment to dry for at least five days before launch into a different water body.
For more information on aquatic invasive species, visit neinvasives.com.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:55]