BETSY BLANEY, Associated Press
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — State officials concerned about the migration of zebra mussels in North Texas have proposed requiring all boats operating on public water in 17 counties be drained after each use.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is seeking public comment on the restrictions it proposed this week. The proposal would extend beyond lakes where mussels have been found so far.
The prolifically breeding mussels were first found in Texas in 2009 at Lake Texoma. Since then, mussels or their larvae have spread to three other Texas lakes, most recently Lewisville and Bridgeport lakes.
The invasive species clogs public-water intake pipes, attaches itself to boat hulls, jams water-cooling systems and can be a hazard to boaters and swimmers because of its sharp edges, according to the department.
The proposal would require draining live wells, bilges, motors and any receptacle or water intake system coming into contact with public waters.
Zebra mussels can expand their range by hitching rides on boats and trailers.
“We know there’s a lot of traffic coming between lakes in that area,” said Ken Kurzawski, the department’s freshwater fisheries regulation coordinator.
It is a Class C misdemeanor statewide to possess or transport zebra mussels.
The public may comment on the proposal online, by mail or at three hearings next month.
The species is originally from the Balkans, Poland and the former Soviet Union. It arrived in the Americas in the 1980s through a ship’s ballast water. The mussels were first found in 1988 in Michigan, and within 10 years had colonized all five Great Lakes and the Mississippi, Tennessee, Hudson and Ohio river basins. They have infested at least 29 states and more than 600 lakes or reservoirs in the U.S.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission is expected to take action on the proposed change at their Nov. 7 meeting.
If approved, the additional restrictions would cover public waters in Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Denton, Fannin, Grayson, Hood, Jack, Kaufman, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rockwall, Stephens, Tarrant, Wise, and Young counties.
The public hearings are Oct. 1 in Fort Worth, Oct. 8 in Denison and Oct. 9 in Garland.
To comment on the proposed rules online: