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Archive for Sunday, December 24, 2006

Zebra mussels infest lake

December 24, 2006

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— Destructive zebra mussels have gotten into a second Kansas lake, state wildlife officials say.

Zebra mussels, an invasive pest that can wreak havoc on water systems, have been found in Winfield City Lake, three years after they were found in El Dorado Lake.

Jason Goeckler, a specialist in aquatic nuisance species with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, said biologists followed a sportsman's tip to easily find the mollusks throughout the lake Tuesday and Wednesday.

"They're still in a relatively low density," Goeckler said. "We speculate the infestation probably started last year."

Goeckler said no one knows how zebra mussels were introduced into either Kansas lake.

The Eurasian natives entered the Great Lakes region in the late 1980s, before making their way on boats and barges to other lakes and rivers in the Mississippi River basin. Zebra mussels can clog utility pipes and motors, coat rocks with sharp shells and outcompete young fish for the plankton on which they feed.

The 1,200-acre Winfield City Lake is the only source of water for the city of Winfield, which is about 35 miles southeast of Wichita. The lake, eight miles north of Winfield, also provides water for several smaller towns, said Winfield City Manager Warren Porter.

"We'll probably have divers check the intake this spring or summer," Porter said. "If we have any problems, there are things we can do to deal with them. We're not expecting any problems with water quality."

The lake also is used for boating, swimming and fishing.

Porter said signs will be posted to warn people to empty all livewells, bilges and bait buckets before leaving the lake. People also will be advised to wash their boats with hot, soapy water or leave them to air-dry at least five days before taking them to another lake.

Female zebra mussels can produce as many as 1 million eggs a year, and once the fingernail-size mollusks take hold in a body of water, it's almost impossible to get rid of them.

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