Zebra mussels, which have seriously affected the economy, environment and recreation on Texas reservoirs and rivers, have been found in Lake Travis, state wildlife officials said Tuesday.
Biologists from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Lower Colorado River Authority confirmed the presence of the zebra mussels in the lake Thursday after a worker at a marina reported seeing a single zebra mussel attached to the outboard motor of a moored boat on the lake, officials said.
Biologist then found the mussels on other nearby boats and on submerged marina infrastructure, according to a statement from the Parks and Wildlife Department. Additionally, they found several size classes of adult and juvenile mussels at two different sites in the lake, indicating the lake is infested with an established, reproducing population, the department said.
The department said Zebra mussels can cover shoreline rocks and litter beaches with treacherously sharp shells, clog public-water intakes, and damage boats and motors left in infested waters.
Biologists also confirmed that the invasive species had also spread to the Guadalupe River Basin a few weeks ago.
“This is pretty disheartening for us and our many partners, including marinas, who work to prevent this invasive species from spreading,” said Monica McGarrity, who leads the TPWD Aquatic Invasive Species team. “It’s two new river basins with infestations this year.”
The Parks and Wildlife Department’s inland fisheries regional director, Brian Van Zee, said the next step is to educate the public to help prevent the spread of zebra mussels to nearby lakes.
“This is a battle we cannot give up on – the cost of these infestations is large and affects so many people,” Van Zee said in the department’s statement Tuesday.
But the more immediate risk, she said, is that zebra mussels could infest other lakes via recreational gear traveling from Lake Travis or other infested lakes.
“The longer we can stave off new infestations the longer we can prevent potential recreational impacts or costly impacts to infrastructure,” McGarrity said.
Texas law prohibits the possession or transportation of zebra mussels, dead or alive. Boaters are required to drain all water from their boat (powered or unpowered) and onboard receptacles before leaving or approaching a body of fresh water in order to prevent the transfer of zebra mussels, the TPWD says.
McGarrity said marinas play an important role as gate keepers that can help prevent boats with attached zebra mussels from entering their lakes.
Texas Parks Wildlife Department says marinas should call the agency at 512-389-4848 if zebra mussels are found on incoming boats — or for coordination when boats are leaving marinas on infested lakes.
Since zebra mussels were first found in Texas in 2009, 11 lakes in five river basins have an established, reproducing population: Belton, Bridgeport, Canyon, Dean Gilbert (a 45-acre Community Fishing Lake in Sherman), Eagle Mountain, Lewisville, Randell, Ray Roberts, Stillhouse Hollow, Texoma and now Travis.