Columbus, Neb. – Who could imagine a small creature, not much bigger than a fingernail, could have the potential to cause millions of dollars in damages. But simply cleaning, draining and drying a boat will aid in stopping this creature.
That creature is the zebra mussel, one of many invasive species found in various lakes and rivers causing damage to boat motors, steering components, clogging cooling intakes of power plants, and annually creating millions of dollars in damage to recreation, water systems and fisheries. Since last fall, zebra mussels have been found in or near Nebraska in the waters at Offutt Air Force Base and along a dock on the South Dakota side of Lewis & Clark Lake.
Nebraska Public Power District utilizes water in the generation of electricity at Gerald Gentleman Station, the North Platte Hydroelectric Plant, and at Cooper Nuclear Station along the Missouri River. Keeping these aquatic invasive species at bay is important to continuing to provide low cost, reliable 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 want to keep the sources of water we use free of these invasive species,” NPPD Environmental Manager Joe Citta explained. “We have been fortunate so far, but we need boaters to be aware of the potential for aquatic hitchhikers.”
Zebra mussels can multiply at a rapid rate with an adult female releasing up to a million eggs in a year, compounding the problem. Earlier this year, the City of Denton, Texas, noticed a thin layer of zebra mussels had taken hold on some intake pipes leading from a reservoir into its water treatment facility. This resulted in a price tag of $500,000 to remove the zebra mussels.
The key to stopping zebra mussels from spreading into Nebraska waters lies in the efforts of boaters, particularly those who may be moving from one body of water to another.
Citta says boaters can take three steps to make a difference in keeping Nebraska waters free from zebra mussels and other invasive species. “They need to clean the boat, drain the boat, and dry the boat,” he said. “If it’s done properly, and systematically, this can be accomplished in only five to 10 minutes.”
NPPD, in conjunction with the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission and the Nebraska Invasive Species Project, asks recreationalists planning to enjoy several days on the state’s waterways to be aware of invasive species. Those organizations urge boaters to take precautions to prevent zebra mussels from hitchhiking from one body of water to another.
The best way for boaters to address the spread of zebra mussels is to check their boats and equipment for these invasive species and remove any visible mud, plants, fish, or animals.
If there is a place for water to collect, there is a chance zebra mussels or other similar invasive species may be transported. Boaters should drain bilges and live wells in their boats, power-wash the boat, motor, and trailer to scour off invisible juvenile mussels. 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.
For those who may be fishing, do not dump bait into the water. Instead, dispose of bait in the trash, as it can harbor aquatic invaders, too.
Tips for preventing zebra mussels being introduced into Nebraska bodies of water are available through the Nebraska Invasive Species Project at http://neinvasives.com and more information can be found on the Nebraska Game & Parks website, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/conservation/Invasive-Species/index.asp.