Waco uses inspectors to fight against mollusk infestation - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

Waco uses inspectors to fight against mollusk infestation


Boats launched this summer at Lake Waco will go through inspections before getting in the water.

That's because the city of Waco is hoping to prevent zebra mussels from getting into the lake. The fast spreading mollusk has already spread to lakes Lewisville and Ray Roberts in north Texas.

By using inspectors to look at boats before going in the water and spreading the word about zebra mussels, the city hopes to keep a mussel free lake. It's one of three lakes in the state to start inspections this year.

"Lake Waco right now is clean, it does not have zebra mussels and that's what they're really trying to do, trying to avoid it because once they become established in a lake there's no known method to eradicate them or remove them," Brian VanZee with the Texas Parks and Wildlife said.

VanZee trained the inspectors Thursday, showing the group of recent graduates and Baylor students where to look for zebra mussels.

"Anywhere there's a real small crack or crevice or kind of an edge where they can attach themselves, they like to get into there," VanZee said.

The danger of these mussels is that they can take over a lake completely within a couple years. In just one year, one zebra mussel can have up to a million offspring. VanZee says they can also spread easily from one lake to another from boats being transferred.

"An adult zebra mussel is able to survive out of the water for several days, potentially up to weeks," VanZee said.

The mussels also feed on nutrients and algae in the water changing the ecosystem of a lake. And the sheer numbers can clog up pipes that go to a city's water system. That's why the city is spending money on prevention saying they can save millions in the future.

Each inspector is paid $12 an hour and the city says they're spending up to $40,000 this summer on prevention. However, officials say it's worth it.

"Really having this one to one, face to face interaction with the boaters when they come to the ramp talking to them, hey have you heard of zebra mussels, this is why they're a concern," VanZee said. 

"(I'll be) Reminding them that it's not a right it's a privilege and that by helping us conduct these surveys and we can give them the opportunity to protect the lake as well," inspector and Baylor student Matt Ponder said.

Four teams will rotate on seven boat ramps on the lake. The inspectors will be out in the mornings and late in the day on weekends and holidays. They will start Saturday, May 25 and end sometime in August.

Boaters share a love for the lake and say this is a good idea, but they want more. While they're okay with mandating people wash their boats, some say they want wash sites near the boat ramps.

"Have a place set up especially for them every time they come in, hit your boat, clean your boat, wash it down get it clean," Lake Waco boater Justin "Hillbilly" Spears said.

Spears says many boaters may not know about the rule and lie about washing their boat. He says once some people get close to the water, it would be hard for them to not get on the lake. But Spears says that's okay.

"Give them a fair warning, if they want to do it, they'll come through, if not they can turn around and leave," Spears said.

City officials say if they prevent the infestation, this could save money. The state has also spread awareness about zebra mussels since 2011. Officials say one of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan, has already been overrun. According to researchers the weight of all the zebra mussels in Lake Michigan is four times the body mass of all the fish.

The state has also posted signs warning boaters at entrances to parks and near the ramps on Lake Waco.

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