Zebra mussels, the innocuously named but virulent mollusk, were first discovered domestically in the Great Lakes back in the late 1980's, having spread westward from their native Eastern Europe and hitched a ride in the ballast of U.S.-bound ships. Since then, they have spread through the nation's waterways.
They were first reported in Texas in 2009, when state officials announced they had been found in Lake Texoma. which prompted the North Texas Municipal Water District to stop pumping water from there and begin construction of a 46-mile pipeline to a treatment plant on Lake Lavon. State wildlife officials encouraged boaters to be sure to clean all water and attached debris from boats, since it only takes a small amount of larvae-filled water to contaminate a lake.
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Jim, with his ancestral roots in Great Lakes country, has heard tell of what zebra mussels have done in his native waters and opined here in January that Texas wasn't taking the problem seriously enough. They are life killers, he said. They scrub the lake of other lifeforms and encourage the growth of toxic algae and pose a direct threat to our water supply. Quarantine Lake Texoma. Don't let a drop get near Lake Lavon.
Lake Lavon appears safe for the moment, but the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department announced yesterday that zebra mussels had been confirmed in Lake Ray Roberts north of Denton. It's the first time the invasive species has been discovered in the Trinity River basin. What's more, it's one of the lakes from which Dallas gets its water.
"Unfortunately, from an environmental and economic standpoint, this is very bad news," TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith said in a statement released by the agency. "For a host of reasons the implications of this discovery are substantial to Texas waters and their future use and management. We intend to continue working with our partners to do everything reasonably possible to try and prevent the further spread of this harmful invasive species."
City of Dallas spokesman Frank Librio emphasized that zebra mussels pose no threat to the city's ability to take drinking water from Ray Roberts, just that it might clog water intakes, which then require extra cleaning. That doesn't sound too apocalyptic. If only things stay that simple.