North Texas Bets Big on Pumping from Lake Texoma

Environmentalists fear plan will let invasive zebra mussels spread.

The plan for Texoma is to pump water out of the lake only when the water is too cold for the zebra mussel spores to form. A lot of preparation already is under way, including scouring and chlorination of the pipes to kill off any zebra mussels that may already be in there. Chlorine kills them.

The agreement between the corps and NTMWD requires the water district to test for spores around the intake pipe before pumping. Commer told me the water temperature has already fallen below the required threshold, but the tests for spores are still turning up too many of them. When three conditions have been met — water cold enough, no spores near pipe, pipes scoured — pumping may begin.

That may sound like a lot of precaution. But on the Great Lakes it wouldn't be anywhere near enough. Cities that take drinking water directly out of the lakes do much more to protect themselves from the mussels than the Texoma plan envisions.

They chlorinate the water they take from the lakes at the point of intake — at the mouth of the pipe — and then if the water is to be stored in a reservoir elsewhere, they dechlorinate it to protect the reservoir. It's a complicated, capital-intensive process.

Too expensive for us, apparently. Brandon W. Mobley, a natural resources management specialist for the corps' Fort Worth District, told me: "To get a system like that online would take some time, and, this is just me speaking, it's cost-prohibitive in certain elements."

But Commer in the corps' Tulsa District conceded that no one else in the world has ever tried to do it the way we will, with no chlorination, relying instead solely on water temperature.

"This is the first situation in the world where water temperature with regard to the metabolic process in the mollusk is being used as a control threshold," he said.

There are other ways for zebra mussels to get around, notably on the bottoms of fishing boats hauled from one lake to another. For that reason a number of lakes in Southern California have been quarantined to boats — that is, nobody can bring a boat in from another lake.

We're not doing that either. Mobley told me the corps is looking at similar plans for its North Texas lakes, but so far the only policy is to rely on boat-owners to spray off their boats before transferring them.

None of this is to say the proposed prevention methods are crazy-irresponsible or drunk or wicked or anything like that. Even Cliff Moore, the naturalist who thinks Texoma should be sealed off, says, "If the monitoring (for spores) really has some oversight, it's not necessarily a terrible plan.

"But can we risk the billions it's going to cost us if they're wrong?"

Moore believes the water lobby and the recreation and real estate lobbies have combined forces to create an attitude of denial toward the risk. "They used to say, 'We don't have to worry about it in Texas. Zebra mussels won't move this far south.'"

If there were ways to poison them in large bodies of water or introduce some predator to kill them off, people would be doing it. It's not physically realistic or safe to chlorinate entire reservoirs. Research is under way into methods of prevention or eradication, but so far, once the zebra mussels have got you, they've got you. And once they find a pathway, however narrow, their spread is explosive.

Because their suctioning power is so vast, zebra mussels have the effect, at least for a while, of rendering lakes crystal clear. Denise Hickey, public relations coordinator for the NTMWD, which wants to pump the water, told me that zebra mussels have "no effect on water quality" for drinking purposes.

She said, "From an environmental perspective, they act as a natural filter in a reservoir."

That's not untrue, with the possible exception of the word "natural." As an invasive species, away from their natural habitat in Europe and Asia, their filtering power is less natural than monstrous: They kill everything else with one exception: blue-green algae.

At certain concentrations, blue-green algae can break down and release a whole family of neurotoxins into the water. Fish kills, bird die-offs and human fatalities have been reported.

Even short of that, it's hard to see how killing all the life in lakes could be a good thing. This may be one of those instances when we need to break out of our parochialism, look around and ask ourselves, "Why is everybody else taking this problem so much more seriously than we seem to be?"

Is everybody else an idiot? Are we geniuses? Are we sure we know what we're doing here?

North Texas Bets Big on Pumping from Lake Texoma

Environmentalists fear plan will let invasive zebra mussels spread.

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17 comments
pschulze
pschulze

The zebra mussels will get to the other lakes whether the pipe lets them through or not because boaters will carry them and we don't seem to have the stomach to prevent movement of boats.  It is great to get boaters to attempt to prevent moving them around but as long as lots of boats move it is virtually certain that the mussels will too. The bigger issue is our cavalier attitude toward non-native species.  God forbid we encumber commerce with any serious effort to prevent the intercontinental movement of species. Zebra mussels are just one example.  Fire ants and West Nile Virus are other local examples.  A colleague of mine told me that a colleague of his who studies non-native species found numerous species of Asian beetle larvae in the wood crating from one shipment of heavy equipment.  Each of those beetles is a potential risk to entire tree species. http://phys.org/news/2013-07-non-native-forest-pests-home-northeastern.html

Jeff Sisyphus Smalley
Jeff Sisyphus Smalley

It is rather shocking that in the 30+ years that they have been infesting the US lakes that no one has come up with a way, outside of smallmouth bath, to kill the damned things.

Jas2000
Jas2000

Ships from central Europe, are you kidding me? Take a look at a map of Europe and help me understand what type ship could get from Central Europe to the United States and I'll go buy one.

waverunner
waverunner

Genetically modified corn was only going to be ..."on a few acres", then the wind blew!! Man has never figured out all the answers BEFORE he created an epidemic.

VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

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BD
BD

I see that this article was written in Dec. 2011. If the author had done a quick search he would see that a boat with zebra mussels was found in Lake Ray Hubbard in May of 2011. If the mussels are in Texoma and apparently now in Ray Hubbard, they are in Lavon. There is no way short of the idiotic solutions like "don't let any boat leave texoma" that will keep the mussel out of other area lakes. Deal with it realistically but Collin county needs Texoma water and zebra mussels are a regional problem now that we all will have to deal with.

Perry Moore
Perry Moore

Anyway, back to the subject. Are these mussels edible, as others certainly are? If so, all we have to do is get them on the menu at all those faux neighborhood restaurants. Call them fresh water oysters. We can calamari these little suckers right into extinction with a slick ad campaign.

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

The problem or say situation lies in the mentality of this region. Business first! Nature is for vacation. And so far that had worked out quite well. That is until our business gets too big for its britches, but really it's not just north Texas there s too damm many people most places

txnomad
txnomad

Anyone who plants grass, bushes, or trees that require more watering than native plants is part of the problem.

Paul
Paul

Denial is not a river in Egypt nor is it an effective control against zebra mussels.

I have noticed over the years that there is a complete and utter lack of critical thinking done by various groups with respect to solving problems.

This plan by the NTMWD and other vested interests demonstrates this attitude.

Instead of accurately assessing the risk and the cost of failure, there is instead one big, huge juicy rationalization as to why this plan should be carried out.

Consider these following phrases from the past and see which have indeed come true;

"Nuclear energy will make electricity too cheap to meter."

"DDT is safe to use."

"Thalidomide is an excellent drug for the control of morning sickness."

"The sardine fishery in Monterrey Bay is limitless."

I am of the opinion that the benefit/cost ratio of pumping water from the now zebra mussel infected Lake Texoma into Lake Lavon is significantly less than 1 and probably is approaching zero.

I am also of the opinion that if a boat touches Lake Texoma, it should be banned from any and all Texas reservoirs.

It is only a matter of time before the Zebra Mussel reaches the Mississippi River and the Louisiana and Gulf fisheries.

The fact remains that the NTMWD and its member cities have failed to secure an adequate water supply for their service area.

I would not be surprised if DWU either signs a long term supply contract with NTMWD or DWU absorbs NTMWD.

What a disaster created by one idiot who moved his boat from Zebra Mussel infested waters to Lake Texoma.

ItchyJack
ItchyJack

Wow, not only do we get to let our private gardens go fallow due to residential water restrictions, while city sprinklers spray into the street, and while Chesapeake and the other subsidized gas companies use billions of gallons of fresh surface and ground water every year to wash sand and to frac subsurface formations, which has proven to result in the contamination of several of our aquifers; we now get to watch the Corps and NTMWD ruin our 'clean' reservoirs. Eh, not surprising...we all know the Corps rolls over for any political entity with so-called clout with short-term interests in mind.

Sa
Sa

BTW: Turned off my sprinkler system 6 weeks ago. Will keep it off until next summer.

Sa
Sa

I live in the NTMWD...and I think we have to take our chances with zebra mussels. We're between a rock and a very very dry place.

Perry Moore
Perry Moore

Anyone that plants grass, bushes or trees that require more water than God sends us is also on my list. Especially if they live in my neighborhood. Brown is the new green.

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

Your garden is worthless, those petrochemicals are quite valuable !

Susie Nix
Susie Nix

We shouldnt have to threaten our eco system because of the idiots who keep planting water sucking plants in their yards. Those plants should be outlawed and they should do so NOW!! I am sick of listening to people who complain about their stupid lawns when the water is needed for more important things and frankly the lawn lovers are the ones making the drought worse. I hope feral hogs rip out all the lawns they can get to.

JimS
JimS

What chances? Your yard versus the entire drinking supply and ecoystem of Texas? If you're so big on rolling the dice, bet your own money.

 
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