Lake Marble Falls, Granger Lake infested with zebra mussels, TPWD says

Hill Country

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Add Lake Marble Falls and Granger Lake to the list of Texas lakes infested with zebra mussels.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department discovered established, reproducing groups of the invasive species in both lakes last fall, the agency said. Lower Colorado River Authority officials also confirmed the presence in the lakes.

The zebra mussels were found in large quantities in lakes this fall. ​ Biologists say they expected this to happen, but now they’re worried about the extent of the invasion when they reach maturity this summer. ​

“We continue to work closely with our partners at Texas Parks and Wildlife to monitor the presence of zebra mussels in the Highland Lakes,” said Bryan Cook, LCRA manager of water quality protection. “We encourage boaters to continue to clean, drain and dry their boats and trailers, as well as to drain all water from boats and onboard receptacles when moving from lake to lake.”

The silver lining is that the life cycle of zebra mussels isn’t very long; however, once they start to populate, one zebra mussel can produce millions.

Zebra mussels are sharp and can latch onto anything which poses a harm to city infrastructure.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has found zebra mussels stuck along Starcke and Wirtz Dams which feed in to Lake Marble Falls. Luckily, the invasive species’ arrival did come with warning for those here at the water treatment plant. ​

“They’re fast, they can stick to almost any surface,” said Jeff Felps, Marble Falls Treatment Plant Superintendent. “If you no forewarning and they just showed up, and you already had them, then that can be pretty bad.”

The treatment is getting ahead of the problem, because they invade city infrastructure.

“We just have a regular intake screen and we are replacing it with one that has the copper nickel alloy,” said Felps

​Copper kills the mussels. The treatment facility also plans on using a copper sulfate chemical, which will filter through their systems​ ​

“We can prevent what’s in the lake,” said Felps. “If they get a lot of them out in the lake. It’s going to be a different story.”

Boaters can help prevent them from heading up stream. Tanner Childress with the Bay Marine Sports Center says in years past the mussels he’s seen have latched onto boats are coming in from Lake Travis.

“We always ask them, where did you come from? That way we know if the boat is contaminated or not,” said Childress.

The center sends those boats immediately through a mitigation process. ​ ​ ​ The first step is to call Fish and Wildlife. ​Second, they place them into quarantine and then wash them hot water. ​The overall recovery could cost thousands of dollars. ​ ​

“They’ll tear up a lot of stuff. Fluid systems, hoses. We have to completely tear the boat apart,” said Childress.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife suggests that if you are moving a boat into a different waterway, you call Texas Parks and Wildlife. They can give you tips on how to properly decontaminate your boat. ​

In Texas, it is against the law to possess or transport zebra mussels — dead or alive.​

​There are 29 lakes in Texas where zebra mussels can be found, TPWD said, but earlier this year they were found in Austin’s water.

Last February, zebra mussels were blamed for smelly water in downtown and south Austin. Test results found the smell was likely caused by zebra mussels in a raw water pipeline at the Ullrich water treatment plant.​ That’s one of the city’s three water treatment plants located on Lake Austin.​ The city of Austin has hired a consultant to help deal with the shellfish.​

Officials said Granger Lake had zebra mussels previously, but after the Brazos River Authority found more adult mussels on samplers throughout the lake, it’s now considered an infestation.

In November, the City of Pflugerville announced that it failed to adequately treat its water for months.

The city says it found the invasive species on the intake pipes into Lake Pflugerville from the Colorado River last September, which caused it to inadequately provide Cryptosporidium treatment.

Cryptosporidium is a bacteria that can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses. The report was based on standards set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

The zebra mussels are still in there.

The Pflugerville treatment plant is working with an engineering company to fix those zebra mussel issue.

The City of Pflugerville is looking at possibly adding a screen or having divers manually remove them. In addition to that, they have been exploring different chemicals to eliminate zebra mussels.

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