BURNET, Texas (KXAN) — Lake Buchanan is officially “infested” with invasive zebra mussels, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It’s the latest body of water in Central Texas to receive the designation which indicates the mussels have established themselves and are reproducing in its waters.
Officials say Inks Lake could be next. Although there are no signs of mussels there at the moment, because it’s downstream it likely will be infested “in the near future.”
For now, testing shows the zebra mussel population in Lake Buchanan appears to be small, according to Monica McGarrity, TPWD Senior Scientist for Aquatic Invasive Species Management.
“However, as we have seen in other Texas lakes, the population is likely to increase rapidly over the next few years,” she said.
Zebra mussel larvae appeared in samples taken from three different places in the lake in October and two of those same sites in November. In December, people working on a floodgate project at Buchanan Dam saw a number of settled zebra mussels.
Why you should care about zebra mussels
Zebra mussels invade lakes and become very hard to control once they do.
Swimmers have to beware of their razor-sharp edges, which can slice through skin and lightweight clothing.
The mussels can grow on boats and motors, costing time and money to remove. On a larger scale, they can clog pipes and valves of water systems, costing cities like Austin millions to mitigate the spread.
Austin Water uses chemical retardants in its pipes to help slow the growth of the mussels, and in 2019 that led to a very smelly situation in the city. When a raw water tunnel was temporarily taken out of service, the mussels infested the line. The chemicals killed them, but then led to water that smelled in downtown and south Austin. That water was still safe to drink, officials said.
What you can do to help
Boaters and homeowners in Lake Buchanan and Inks Lake should keep a lookout for zebra mussels and report them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, TPWD said.
People should thoroughly clean boats and kayaks, drain all water and make sure they’re completely dry as a best practice, TPWD said. But, they should be especially careful if they are moving between bodies of water or store their boats in a lake with the mussels.
“Before moving your boat to another lake, call TPWD at (512) 389-4848 for guidance on decontamination,” it wrote. “The transport of aquatic invasive species can result in legal trouble for boaters or transporters. Transporting prohibited invasive species in Texas is illegal and punishable with a fine of up to $500 per violation.”
How many lakes are infested?
A total of 31 Texas lakes have some presence of zebra mussels, TPWD says. At least nine lakes in Central Texas are considered infested, including Lake LBJ, Lake Travis and Lady Bird Lake, according to a TPWD map that tracks infestations.