Texoma and Lavon Boats Now Subject to New Cleaning Standards

| June 11, 2012

Months ago, I began focusing on the dire situation at Lake Texoma, Texas, and the zebra mussel infestation that is a direct threat to virtually all Texas lakes.

Someone cornered me the other day and gave my knowledge a once-over on the subject, and although I have written plenty about it, I don’t get many opportunities to talk about my understanding of the zebra mussel situation.

Here’s what I have so far –
Robert F. McMahon
Professor Emeritus
Department of Biology
The University of Texas at Arlington

“It has proven difficult to predict what the specific ultimate ecological consequences of a zebra mussel invasion during the early stages of invasion of a water body such as is presently occurring in Lake Texoma. This is especially true for a warm southwestern lake like Texoma where the biology and impacts of zebra mussel infestation have not been previously studied. The eventual outcome of zebra mussel invasion of Texoma will partly depend on the lake’s temperature regime, productivity, and the degree to which water quality is impacted, especially water clarification, among others.

For some general information to share with your readers you may want to read the US Geological Survey document (http://www.glsc.usgs.gov/_files/factsheets/2000-6%20Zebra%20Mussels.pdf) which gives a relatively brief overview of the general economic and ecological impacts associated with zebra mussel invasion of water bodies in North America.”

Zebra mussels are in Lake Texoma and the water supply line that goes to Lake Lavon has been shut off. I have heard that another pipeline is being constructed to Lavon that will have filtration to rid the water of the zebra mussel veliger (larva) before it goes into the Lake Lavon water. Lavon is subject to new boater regulations as is the Red River from Wichita County to the Arkansas border.

With the loss of Texoma’s water supply, 25-percent of North Texas’ available water, those who draw from Lavon, is offline.

Other than filtration of water transfers, the only way to “control” the spread of zebra mussels is by boater education that results in Texoma boaters having to use extraordinary measures to clean their boats and rid them of the zebra mussel.

There won’t be any silver bullets.

From what I’ve heard, zebra mussels are a fact of life in other regions of the US, one that boaters and fishers have made adjustments for and become accustomed to living with.

The Texoma to Lavon story took on a bit of a “Who’s on First?” twist once local news sources began to triangulate the overlapping authorities, and momentarily disparate interests of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the North Texas Municipal Water District. Water continued to flow to Lavon after the zebra mussel had been discovered at Texoma, but it appeared justified because of the quantity discovered (Hysmith interview with News 8). Once a true outbreak came to Texoma, action was eventually taken.

What do zebra mussels mean for Texas lakes? That’s a question that’s first on everyone’s minds. The most publicized scenarios are water supply nightmares that have lakes going offline as their pipes and pumps clog with the sci-fi mussels that spread like a Texas grass fire in July.

What would zebra mussels mean for a lake like Ray Roberts, and what about fishing?

Mussels filter water, and are very efficient water filters in the billions. My understanding is that they begin to disrupt the chain by taking away nutrients that are way down the food chain and eaten by sources that link the chain, eventually to our fish.

Clearer water means more photosynthesis. More photosynthesis means more widespread vegetation. So far this year, with the lack of a real winter, Ray Roberts is headed for epic hydrilla growth. Imagine exponential growth of these aquatic plants that cover entire coves starting much further out than ever before.

Clearer water will lead to changes in fish behavior, as the fish can see and be seen better. They will have to change to hide from predators, and the fish they eat will be hiding from them – somewhere new.

Imagine every rock, every old house foundation, covered with zebra mussels – solid. Instead of something to stand on, or cross over, or cast near, the structures become a line cutting, skin cutting shoe slitting menace.

Okay, by now the eyes of most people who’ve cornered me on zebra mussel information are glassing over. There’s still a lot to learn about the zebra mussel. How deep do they go? What all do they latch onto? There’s a lot less rock lining Ray Roberts than there is on Texoma. There’s still a lot of rock though (that’s one reason why Ray Roberts can support smallmouth).

My best guess is that the spread to other lakes, including Lake Ray Roberts, is virtually unavoidable. Think about what little it takes … One little slip, one little forgetful moment, a friend calls and says let’s hit Ray Roberts – and before you think, you are on Ray Roberts in your boat the same day you got off Texoma. Somebody somewhere is going to forget to clean their boat, drain or dump some water, and it’s a done deal. And taking it a step further, I think they will first appear at the Buck Creek Access just off 377. That area is loaded with rock because of the bridge and train trestle – a zebra mussel nursery.

It’s most difficult to balance on the wire between legitimate concern and alarm, but if time allows, I will visit Texoma in the next few weeks, and answer some questions for myself. I never heard from anyone as to whether the zebra mussel is below the Denison Dam. I also want to see the boat cleaning facilities – if there are any – and see if the area is being watched by TPWD authorities for compliance.

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Category: Science and Environmental

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https://www.shannondrawe.com is where to find my other day job. I write and photograph fish stories professionally, and for free here! Journalist by training. This site is for telling true fishing news stories, unless otherwise noted.

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