Boaters beware of transporting zebra mussels

With so many people hitting the lakes and rivers this Labor Day weekend, the Colorado River Alliance wants to remind you to do their part in stopping the spread of the invasive species the zebra mussel.

Executive Director with the Colorado Alliance Brent Lyles said the invasive species can hurt native wildlife, boats and pipes. "Here they barely have any predators and they grow like crazy.  Zebra mussels will fill water pipes they will incrust a boat motor that's been in the water these things are going to do a lot of damage and we need to do our part to make sure we are not helping them spread."

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The zebra mussel problem first surfaced in Central Texas a year ago and has since been found in Lake Austin, down in Lady Bird Lake and Lake Travis. "We need to make sure those zebra mussels don't spread to other water bodies. We want to make sure that Lake Buchanan and Barton Springs and the creeks in towns we don't want to see zebra mussels anywhere," said Lyles. "If you got a boat on Labor Day weekend and its wet we got to make sure we are cleaning draining and drying everything." 

Biologists said the mussels can migrate in the water, but they are most likely hitching rides on your boat. Contamination can occur from boats which are not properly drained and cleaned after being used in bodies of water that are infected. 

Larvae can also live for days in water left inside kayaks, floats and canoes.

Boat anchors, even a muddy swim shoe, can cause a transfer.

"A single zebra mussel can release up to a million eggs into the water each year,"   said Lyles.

Lyles says preventing these mussels from spreading is the best course of action and if not taken can worsen. "Picture a water pipe that's pulling water out of the lake for drinking water or manufacturing zebra mussels reproduce so quickly that they can clog that pipe and that costs a lot of money to replace that pipe or clean the zebra mussels out,"  said Lyles.

If caught transporting a Zebra Mussel it can lead to a hefty fine of $500.

Repeat offenders can face a $2,000 fine and even jail time.