WACO – State wildlife officials have adopted emergency rules over two Brazos basin reservoirs after zebra mussels were found at Lake Belton.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith Wednesday (Sept. 25) signed an order adopting an emergency rule to add Lakes Belton and Stillhouse Hollow and portions of the Leon and Lampasas rivers to the list of water bodies covered by special regulations intended to control the spread of zebra mussels. Under these regulations, boaters who drain their boats and gear after visiting these water bodies will not be considered in violation of rules prohibiting possession of zebra mussels.

The move came after a volunteer found one of the destructive bivalves at the Central Texas reservoir on Sept. 18. A follow-up survey found zebra mussels are well-established throughout the lake. They are believed to have been there since 2012. To date, the mussels have not been found at any other reservoirs in the Brazos River Authority system. The BRA has contributed to the wildlife department’s efforts to stem the mussels’ spread.

Zebra mussels, which originated in Russia, spread to the United States in the 1980s and within 10 years had colonized the Great Lakes and the Mississippi, Tennessee, Hudson and Ohio River basins. Since then, they have spread to additional lakes and river systems, including some in North Texas.

The mollusks reproduce rapidly and when introduced into a nonnative ecosystem, they consume nutrients that affect the food chain for fish and other aquatic life native to Texas. According to Parks and Wildlife officials, the mussel can also clog pipes that supply customers with drinking water. Adult zebra mussels colonize all types of living and non-living surfaces including boats, buoys, docks, piers, plants, and slow-moving animals such as native clams, crayfish and turtles. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the potential economic impact of zebra mussels to be in the billions of dollars.

Officials recommend the following steps to help prevent zebra mussels’ spread:

Clean all vegetation, mud, algae and other debris from the boat and trailer after leaving an infested lake. Drain all water from the motor as well as the live well, bilge, bait buckets and any other compartments or systems that hold water. Dry the vessel and associated equipment for 7 to 10 days from May through October or for 15 to 20 days from November through April, before putting in another waterbody. These drying times are approximations, and factors such as cooler air temperatures, higher humidity and whether or not the vessel is kept in dry storage should be considered.

“The Lake Belton discovery underscores how critical it is for boaters all across Texas to get informed and involved to help stop the spread of zebra mussels,” said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries regional director based in Waco. “Unfortunately, zebra mussel larvae, called veligers, are not visible to the naked eye. You could be transporting them on your boat and not even know it. This is why it’s particularly important to always Clean, Drain, and Dry your boat and gear before heading to another water body.”

For more information on zebra mussels and how to clean, drain and dry a boat, visit http://www.texasinvasives.org/.

About the Brazos River Authority

The Brazos River Authority, with headquarters in Waco, is the oldest river authority in Texas.  Created by the Texas Legislature in 1929, the Authority's 42,000 square-mile territory includes all or part of 70 counties; extending from the Texas-New Mexico border west of Lubbock to the Gulf of Mexico near Freeport. 

The Authority built, owns, and operates three reservoirs (Lakes Possum Kingdom, Granbury, and Limestone).  In addition to these water supply reservoirs, the Authority contracts with the Corps of Engineers for the water supply storage space at eight federal multi-purpose flood control and water conservation reservoirs (Lakes Whitney, Belton, Proctor, Somerville, Stillhouse Hollow, Granger, Georgetown and Aquilla). 

The Brazos River Authority operates a regional wastewater system for the cities of Temple-Belton and the Brushy Creek Regional Wastewater System for the City of Round Rock. The Authority also operates wastewater treatment plants for the cities of Georgetown, Dime Box, Clute-Richwood, Sugar Land, Hutto and Liberty Hill.   

The Authority owns and operates regional water treatment systems at Lake Granbury (which supplies potable water to wholesale customers in Hood and Johnson Counties), and East Williamson County for the City of Taylor.  The Authority also operates potable water treatment plant for the cities of Dime Box and Leander. 

The Authority engages in water quality monitoring activities throughout the Brazos River basin.  As a member of the Texas Clean River Program, the Authority samples and tests water from 141 locations throughout the basin on either a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. 

For further information on the Brazos River Authority, please contact Judi Pierce, Public Information Officer at 254-761-3103.