Clean. Drain. Dry will help prevent the spread of zebra mussels into Nebraska waterways

May 25, 2011

Columbus, Neb.- ”Clean. Drain. Dry.” Three simple, but important words.

That’s the message from the Nebraska Invasive Species Project, and one that Nebraska Public Power District is also sending to boaters who may be using waterways in- or out-of-state. The ultimate goal is to keep zebra mussels and other invasive aquatic species from Nebraska waterways and eliminate the possibility of expensive cleaning and replacement of power plant infrastructure.

Zebra mussels spread to new waterways when boats carrying mussels from infested waters are put into uncontaminated rivers or lakes.

With sightings last winter of zebra mussels at Lake Zorinsky in Omaha, NPPD is urging boaters to follow the three easy steps to help prevent the movement of these aquatic hitchhikers. These small, black and white striped mollusks, about an inch or less in size, are highly prolific aquatic creatures and can cause millions of dollars of damage to intake structures at power plants.

“The message being sent by the Nebraska Invasive Species Group is an important one. Several NPPD power plants use reservoir or river water for the generation of electricity,” said NPPD Corporate Environmental Manager Joe Citta. “Cleaning clogged intake structures or replacing equipment can be expensive as we have seen at several power generating facilities.”

Canada’s Ontario Hydro spent $10 million for chlorination and dechlorination equipment to prevent mussel larvae from settling and attaching. The coal fueled Monroe (Mich.) Power Plant on western Lake Erie has spent more than one-half million dollars for cleaning zebra mussels from its cooling system and expects to spend an additional $50 million for remedial work and pipe replacement.

NPPD uses water from Sutherland Reservoir for Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland, and Lake Maloney, which feeds into the North Platte hydro. Water from the Missouri River is used at Cooper Nuclear Station. All three facilities have the potential for problems from the spread of these aquatic hitchhikers.

Water intake structures and pipes drawing water into power plants can become clogged, forcing the utility to reduce power production. Beyond electric generation, zebra mussels can block a boat’s cooling system causing overheating; jam steering equipment; increase drag on the bottom of a boat; and require scraping or repainting of a boat’s bottom.

As boating activity begins to gear up for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend and summer months, NPPD supports the “Clean. Drain. Dry” effort of the Nebraska Invasive Species Project aimed at stopping aquatic hitchhikers. “It is critical we stop any aquatic hitchhikers that could eventually create damage to our power plants,” said Citta, “and eliminate the cost of repairing and cleaning lines.”

NPPD recommends the most important way for boaters to address the spread of zebra mussels is to check their equipment for these aquatic hitchhikers and remove any visible mud, plants from the boat, fish, or animals. What may appear to be harmless species, such as the zebra mussels, have been known to travel in ballast water, attached to boats, and transported between reservoirs.

Clean, dry, and drain all equipment that comes into contact with the water. If there is a place for water to collect, there is a chance that zebra mussels or other similar invasive species may be transported, including on boat trailers. Boaters should drain the bilges and live wells in their boats, and if unable to be drained, a cup of bleach can be added to kill any live mussels.

It is also a good idea to dry the boat for several days before its next use. If possible, power-wash the boat, motor, and trailer to scour off invisible juvenile mussels.

Additional information on removing these aquatic hitchhikers can be found at http://www.snr.unl.edu/invasives/boater.htm.