Lake Austin now ‘infested’ with zebra mussels

Watershed Protection Department
Watershed Protection Department

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Lake Austin currently has an established population of invasive zebra mussels, according to new test results from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The group updated its classification to “infested” Thursday.

It’s been less than a year since zebra mussels were discovered upstream in Lake Travis — officials found evidence of the mussels there in June 2017, and in Lake Austin in August. TPWD also updated Lady Bird Lake’s status to “suspect,” which means evidence of the creatures or their larvae have been found at least once. The Lower Colorado River Authority found several larvae in a plankton sample. Lake Georgetown was classified as “infested” in November.

“When zebra mussels were found in the Colorado River Basin we knew it was likely that larvae would disperse and invade downstream water bodies,” said Monica McGarrity, TPWD Aquatic Invasive Species team lead. “But downstream dispersal doesn’t spread zebra mussels to new river basins – boats do — and boats can spread them downstream more quickly.”

TPWD is reminding boaters and those who use other watercraft to help prevent that spread by carefully cleaning, draining and drying their boats — also including sailboats, kayaks and canoes — and gear — including swimsuits, wetsuits and water shoes. The city of Austin says people should be especially careful when going from activities in Lake Austin to places like Barton Springs Pool.

In all, 14 bodies of water in five separate river basins are infested with zebra mussels. Officials say eight others are either positive for the mussels or suspected of having them, and that Texas rivers and lakes are at high-risk for infestation. The creatures create numerous problems, including harming native species, destroying docks, damaging boats and clogging pipes.

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