Courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
AUSTIN — A major public awareness campaign is calling on boaters to “Clean, Drain, and Dry” their boats, trailers, and gear before traveling to and from Texas waterways to stem the spread of zebra mussels.
A coalition of river authorities, water districts and municipalities across the state, led by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, is investing more than $400,000 in this year’s advertising campaign; it’s the largest investment in public awareness since zebra mussels were discovered in Texas in 2009.
The campaign’s objectives are to inform boaters about their legal responsibility to prevent invasive zebra mussels from spreading and to reinforce the steps necessary to be in compliance with the law. It is illegal to possess or transport any prohibited aquatic invasive species in Texas.
Since zebra mussel larvae, called veligers, are invisible to the naked eye, boaters must drain all water from their boat and all receptacles on board when traveling on a public roadway to or from a public water body in Texas.
The awareness campaign got under way May 7 and continues through the summer. Boaters will see and hear the “Clean, Drain and Dry” message through a variety of media, including print, online and radio advertising, direct mail and email, printed materials, boat ramp and gas station signage and strategically-placed billboards.
The campaign will focus its reach on the seven infested lakes in Texas, as well as in areas of the state at highest risk for possible spread of zebra mussels.
“Zebra mussels are invasive and highly destructive organisms that can change the face of a water body and once they are here there is no known way to get rid of them,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director.
Originally from Eurasia, these rapidly reproducing mussels have serious economic and recreational impacts to Texas reservoirs. They can clog water intake pipes, damage boats and motors by attaching to boat hulls and clogging water-cooling systems, completely cover anything under water and litter the shoreline with their sharp shells.
Zebra mussels have been found in seven lakes in Texas since they were established in Lake Texoma in 2009. Other infested lakes include Lake Ray Roberts, Lakes Bridgeport, Lavon, Lewisville, Belton, and most recently in Lake Waco.
Economically, zebra mussels have the potential to cause damage to drinking water facilities and electric power plants, with losses estimated to being in the millions of dollars annually.
From an environmental perspective, zebra mussels are filter feeders, which directly compete with baitfish such as shad for available forage. Any impact on baitfish in turn can affect their predators — including game fish. Zebra mussels are also very harmful to native mussel populations because they colonize their shells and essentially suffocate them.
Partners for the awareness campaign include; the North Texas Municipal Water District; Tarrant Regional Water District; City of Dallas Water Utilities Department; Trinity River Authority; San Jacinto River Authority; Sabine River Authority; Brazos River Authority; Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority; Lower Colorado River Authority; Upper Trinity Regional Water District; City of Houston; City of Grapevine; Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County; the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Sport Fish Restoration Program.
Information about zebra mussels can be found at http://texasinvasives.org/zebramussels/.