Eradication of highly invasive species from Texas lake called a ‘unique success story’

Outdoors

WACO, Texas (KETK) While zebra mussels are still in several lakes across the state of Texas, the invasive species has successfully been eradicated from Lake Waco.

First discovered in 2014, biologist cautioned that the ridding of the invasive mussels is extremely rare, and was made possible only by very early detection and a multi-agency rapid response effort.

In September 2014, City of Waco employees found zebra mussels at a single boat ramp on Lake Waco, which were later confirmed by TPWD.

Surveys in the area found approximately 75 more adult mussels as well as a few zebra mussel larvae, but all were in a localized area around the ramp and adjacent marina.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Additionally, an infested barge believed to be the source of the invasive mussels was identified in the adjacent marina and removed from the lake two days after the mussels were detected. The owner was cited for illegally introducing prohibited zebra mussels.

In October of that year, agencies installed nearly an acre of plastic sheeting over the shoreline and lake bottom in the affected area and weighted it down with sandbags.

This method was used in an attempt to kill the mussels by blocking oxygen, impede their reproduction, and prevent them from becoming established in the lake. 

“This was a very substantial undertaking that took a lot of creative thinking and required many staff from the City of Waco, US Army Corps of Engineers and Texas Parks and Wildlife to accomplish, not to mention the heavy equipment, boats and commercial divers. However, it was the late Tom Conry with the City of Waco who deserves credit for being the driving force behind the project. Our goal was simple—smother as many zebra mussels as possible in an effort to prevent them from being able to reproduce and get a foothold in the lake.” 

Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries Regional Director

The plastic was removed in March 2015, and evidence indicated the effort was successful. Since then, TPWD and the City of Waco have monitored the lake and found no mussel larvae, settled adults, or their DNA in the lake.

“The Lake Waco eradication is a unique success story for Texas – this is one of very few invasive mussel eradications in the U.S. and, to our knowledge, the first successful use of this method. However, it is now more important than ever for boaters to take action to protect the lake, as it could only take one boat or barge to reintroduce these mussels. TPWD will continue to carefully monitor the lake for early detection.”

Monica McGarrity, TPWD Senior Scientist for Aquatic Invasive Species Management

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife, the ridding of the species is helping prevent property damage, protecting water supply infrastructure and avoiding harm to the aquatic ecosystem.

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