Prevent Zebra Mussel spread during boating season

Power for Progress… a weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority.

Tips to prevent the spread of these tiny troublemakers … This week GRDA shares some important tips on how you can help prevent the spread of zebra mussels across Grand and Hudson lakes.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) dubbed them “public enemy number one” on the aquatic nuisance species list. Up in the Great Lakes region, their very presence led to millions of dollars in expenditures directed towards trying to control their spread. And, for over 25 years, an Oklahoma task force has kept its eyes on our state’s waters, watching for their presence and educating the public about their impact.

Of course, we are talking about the zebra mussel, a non-indigenous freshwater mollusk that has caused plenty of problems in our nation’s waterways since their arrival in North America nearly 30 years ago. The zebra mussels traveled across the Atlantic in the bilge water of cargo ships that made their way into the Great Lakes. That is a long way from their native homes in Russian waters and the Caspian and Black Seas. 

The mussels are small; most are only the size of a thumbnail. They have an elongated D-shape shell with a zebra-like pattern of stripes. Adult mussels can grow to 1.5” to 2” in length. With tiny, threadlike filaments they can attach to water intake structures, boat hulls, reefs, buoys, docks and other submerged objects. Add in the facts that they can reproduce very rapidly (a female can lay up to a million eggs in a season) and have not natural predators and the zebra mussel problem becomes clear. 

GRDA offers the following tips to help prevent the spread of zebra mussels:

  • Boats should not be left in the water for extended periods of time. With regular use, engine heat should keep mussels from colonizing inside most engine parts.
  • Always drain the bilge water, live wells and bait buckets.
  • Inspect the boat and trailer immediately upon leaving the water.
  • Scrape off any mussels found. Do NOT return them to the water.
  • If possible, dry the boat and trailer for at least a week before entering another waterway.
  • Wash boat parts and accessories that contact the water using hot water (at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit), a ten percent solution of household chlorine bleach or a hot saltwater solution. Do not wash the boat at the ramp where these solutions could pollute the water. Always finish with a clean rinse.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.