A renewed warning: Group wants plan to block spread of zebra mussels

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Wildlife rangers are sending a renewed warning to lake visitors and boaters this weekend.

With more boats in the water, experts are worried that could speed the spread of zebra mussels, which could, in turn, choke the area’s water supply.

One environmental group points to a secondary impact the mussels have on the area: lakeside property values.

Scientists say Lake Austin and Lake Travis are already infested with zebra mussels and Lady Bird Lake may be next.

“The focus is stopping the spread,” said R. Brent Lyles, Colorado River Alliance executive director. “Because [Lady Bird Lake] is a flowing river, there’s not much that can be done.”

Lyles’s group, a nonprofit designed to protect the river, wants to put a plan in place to stop the spread. It assembled homeowners, scientists and experts at a meeting Friday to discuss action steps. 

“These things are going to be causing damage over the next few years,” Lyles said. “Right now, there is not eradication, it’s about making sure it doesn’t spread from one waterway to another.” 

The alliance’s gathering comes as lakes and waterways will fill up with boats this Father’s Day weekend. 

Another problem: the long-term environmental and economic damage they bring: from rising water rates to dipping home prices.

Realtors fear zebra mussels may have a similar impact on sales as a drought. 

“It may stop some sales,” said Bill Morris, a realtor in Austin who has tracked the drop in lake sales during the 2011 drought. “You can watch lake area property prices fall when the water is low and come back up when the water comes back up as well.”

Rangers are reminding boaters to thoroughly wash their boats after an outing on the water this weekend to cut down on the spread of zebra mussels.

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