EL DORADO Zebra mussels have been found in a Kansas reservoir for the first time, and prospects of getting rid of the aquatic pest are bleak.
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks biologists found about 150 zebra mussels Monday between the dam and marina at El Dorado Reservoir.
Doug Jensen, aquatic invader specialist for Sea Grant, a University of Minnesota organization that studies zebra mussels, said the species was bad news anyplace it turned up.
"They've been a huge problem because they can affect so many different types of water users," Jensen said. "They can have a big impact on industries, municipal utilities, recreational boaters, fishermen."
Jensen and Tim Mosher, Wildlife and Parks fisheries research biologist, agree that there wasn't much anyone could do to remove the problem from the lake. The numbers probably will expand quickly because one female zebra mussel can release hundreds of thousands of eggs a year.
Most of the mussels found at El Dorado have been under a half-inch, which means they probably were introduced into the lake in 2002 and hatched this year.
Zebra mussels are notorious for attaching themselves to water intake structures in densities thick enough to shut off water flow, if unchecked. Millions of dollars are spent each year in the Great Lakes region trying to keep water intake structures free of the mussels.
El Dorado currently gets its city water supply from the reservoir.
There also is concern about what effect the zebra mussels might have on native aquatic species. Mosher is sure the more prolific zebra mussels will out-compete native mussels for food and space. They may hurt fish populations.
"They're so prolific, and they filter so much water, they can remove the food base for our young fish," he said. "The competition is our main concern."
They also pose a problem for boaters who moor watercraft for extended periods of time in infected waters. Photos of Great Lakes boats show motors and hulls packed with zebra mussels, which can ruin engines and jam steering equipment.
Wildlife and Parks and the Coast Guard Auxiliary will be at El Dorado educating boaters this weekend.
"They can be transferred in livewell or bilge water, mud on anchors, in bait water," Mosher said. "Single-day use of a boat on the lake won't be much of a problem, but if it's moored for a while, mussels could become attached to the hull."
All boat or bait water gathered at El Dorado, Mosher said, needs to be emptied there. If moored, boat hulls should be washed with hot, soapy water and left in the sun to dry for at least five days.