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Prevention best option

No zebra mussels at county lake, super wants to keep it that way

Staff writer

Not wanting to wait until it’s too late, Marion County Lake Superintendent Steve Hudson wants to prevent the spreading of zebra mussels in the lake he oversees.

Accompanied by Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Resource Officer Marvin Peterson, Hudson told Marion County Commission the good news Monday that the most recent samples indicated there are no zebra mussels in the lake. However, with mussels springing up in lakes all around Marion County, Hudson wants to take aggressive measures to assure the mussels will not settle in the lake on his watch.

A mandatory check-in with inspection of all watercraft and live bait is the first step, Hudson said. Vouchers would be given to those who check in at the main entrances and boat ramps.

Boaters from Marion Reservoir will be required to power wash (140 degrees or hotter) or use some other approved sanitation method to their vessels before being allowed to enter the water at the county lake.

The zebra mussels attach themselves to any solid object in the water including boats, motors, bait, etc. They then are carried from one lake to another by detaching themselves from the boat when it enters new water, reproducing, and continuing the cycle of upsetting the ecology of lakes.

The only other approach would be after the zebra mussels take over the lake, the water could be drained and the lake set allowed to empty for two years which Hudson does not consider a viable option.

“I want to take action to prevent it from happening,” he said.

Hudson said he talked with county attorney Susan Robson about a resolution that would impose a $1,500 fine to those boaters and fishermen who do not abide by the rules.

Peterson said there is a state statute that prohibits transporting exotic species, with zebra mussels at the top of the list, from one body of water to another, but wasn’t aware of any other lake being this aggressive.

He continued that he has seen the results of the zebra mussels at El Dorado State Lake.

“Right now they’re on the down side, but two years ago it was incredible,” Peterson said.

Commissioner Dan Holub asked if a heated power wash station could be installed at the lake but with a strapped budget for the rest of 2008 and all of 2009, commissioner Randy Dallke wondered how the expenses would be paid.

“We’ll have other costs besides just a power washer,” Dallke said. “Are we going to charge users?”

Holub responded that this situation was not a condition made by the county plus there are no other fees to use the county lake.

“If they want to continue to use the county lake, they’ll have to pay for a power wash,” Holub said.

Concerns also were expressed as to how the power wash runoff water would be contained.

Peterson said it was simple to prevent the spreading of zebra mussels if people would just do it.

“Minnesota has taken an aggressive education approach and have kept them down,” Peterson said. He noted that two other states did not take as an aggressive approach and now those lakes are covered.

Another expense would be additional part-time employees to help inspect and monitor boats.

Lake resident Gordon Pendergraft asked if Hudson needed a boat to monitor the activity.

Hudson responded currently he flashes the headlights of his truck from the shoreline to talk with boaters but admitted at times it was frustrating.

“If we get zebra mussels, all of these other scheduled improvements and events won’t matter,” Hudson said. “You might as well kiss them good-bye.”

Weighing the options with possible expenses of a power washer and inspections, Hudson said it would be worth it.

“If people aren’t required to do this, we’ll have the zebra mussels,” he said. “These costs are minimal compared with draining the lake for two years.”

Peterson also talked about the cycle of the mussels dying off in several years. When the mussels die, windrows of shells can be left along shorelines. The shells are sharp and they smell, discouraging camping, boating, and vacationing activities, he said.

“We’ve picked up dollars for the reservoir and now we’re picking up dollars at the county lake,” Dallke said. “There are some people in my district who do not benefit from the lake. It’s all tax dollars (being spent).”

Holub said he had no problem charging people who benefit from the recreation.

“We have a substantial investment at the county lake. These mussels not only affect the lake but the fishery,” Peterson said. “The county lake is our (KDW&P) crowned jewel.”

Last modified Aug. 13, 2008

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