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Zebra Mussels Larvae Confirmed In Lake Bridgeport

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - It's been exactly one week since the United States Geological Survey (USGS) confirmed that zebra mussels had invaded Lake Lewisville.

Runaway Bay, a town on Lake Bridgeport, was preparing for visitors to its Fourth of July festival this weekend. But signs posted in area shop windows today announced an early, unwanted guest. The zebra mussel is likely in Lake Bridgeport -- at least its larvae and DNA are. Biologists found zebra mussel DNA in the fall of 2011 and 2012 and now samples collected earlier this month by the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) confirm the presence of larvae.

"This is the first I've even known about it even today, actually," said Berry White as he read the sign that was posted in his convenience store window. White is also a Runaway Bay council member. "And we'll see if we can help do anything with the Tarrant water board and get in touch with them and see what we can do to try to help them."

The presence of the pesky bivalves is worrisome for Runaway Bay, a town which draws water from the lake for its water supply. Zebra mussels grow in large clusters and are notorious for fouling expensive pumps and equipment needed to move the water. If Runaway Bay loses its pumps, it loses its water supply.

"They're troublesome because they clog up pipes and they also are filter-feeding creatures, and so what that means is they have a very bad impact on other species in the water," explained Texas Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Mike Cox.

While there is no known way to rid waterways of the creatures, Cox says there are steps people can take to slow their spread. "If you operate a boat in water that is already known to be infested once you get that boat out of the water you need to clean it, drain it and let it dry."

So far, biologists have not found juvenile or adult zebra mussels in Lake Bridgeport.

The lake is one of the water sources for the Tarrant Regional Water district, too. The district says it had planned for zebra mussels. It will increase the frequency of maintenance on its equipment to keep it clear of the mussels.

But according to fishing guide, Keith Bunch, zebra mussel's arrival as inevitable at the lake is inevitable.

"If the DNA is here and they're not, its going to happen," Bunch said. "It's not if. It's going to happen. It's just a question of time."

And the Tarrant Regional Water District said it's probably just a question of time before the mussels spread to Eagle Mountain Lake and Lake Worth, too. Still, the district and TP&W are encouraging boaters to empty live wells and wash off their boats thoroughly after use to prevent the transfer of microscopic larvae from one lake to another.

One adult zebra mussel is about the size of a dime and can spawn up to a million eggs a year, quickly overtaking a body of water. Cox said zebra mussels, "…compete for forage and if we start losing bait fish, for lack of food in the water, then we can have an impact on species like bass, and stripe bass, and catfish."

The invasive species have invaded 29 states and more than 600 lakes or reservoirs in the United States.

In addition to Lewisville Lake last week, zebra mussels had already been confirmed in lakes Lavon, Ray Roberts and Texoma.

Click here to find out more information about zebra mussels.

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