Boaters should clean, drain, and dry to avoid introducing invasive species to state’s waterways

May 24, 2013

Columbus, Neb. – Picking up a hitchhiker is a choice for any driver of a vehicle. But boaters may inadvertently pick up an “aquatic hitchhiker” that can cause serious problems for rivers, lakes, power companies, water utilities, and recreation users of those bodies of water.

With the Memorial Day weekend approaching, Nebraska Public Power District is asking boaters using Lake Maloney, Sutherland Reservoir, the Missouri River, or any Nebraska body of water to be aware of the potential for invasive species hitchhiking their way from one body of water to another.

NPPD is asking boaters to take certain actions this summer regarding zebra mussels which could be introduced into Nebraska’s waterways, if a boat has been used in another state. Zebra mussels multiply at a rapid rate and will attach themselves to pipes or other structures, clogging the ability to intake water into a facility, such as water treatment plants or a power plant that utilizes water from reservoirs or rivers to generate electricity.

“Millions of dollars have been spent in other parts of the United States at similar facilities to unclog intake structures of invasive species. We have been fortunate so far, but we need boaters to be aware of the potential for aquatic hitchhikers,” NPPD Environmental Manager Joe Citta explained. Invasive species introduced into local waters could have a negative impact on the operation of NPPD’s Gerald Gentleman Station at Sutherland Reservoir, the North Platte Hydroelectric Facility, and Cooper Nuclear Station along the Missouri River.

Aquatic invasive species are non-native organisms that cause significant harm to intake structures and the ecosystem when introduced. Aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels, are small organisms that could have huge impacts for Nebraska’s waters, boaters, and anglers. They can ruin fisheries, clog cooling systems in motorboats, foul hulls, and damage aquatic equipment.

Once a boat has been in infested waters, it can carry zebra mussels and spread them to new habitats on boats trailered by commercial haulers or boat owners. These aquatic hitchhikers attach to boats, plants stuck on boats, bait buckets, and other aquatic recreational equipment. An adult female zebra mussel can release up to a million eggs in a year.

“There have been reports of these invasive species showing up in various bodies of water in some of our neighboring states in the past, so we encourage boaters to follow some simple steps to help prevent the introduction of zebra mussels into Nebraska’s waterways,” Citta added.

The best 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, fish, or animals from the boat.

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

These tips for prevention and more are available through the Nebraska Invasive Species Project at http://snr.unl.edu/invasives/boater.htm.