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It’s official: Zebra mussels confirmed in Lake Lida

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

It’s now official: according to a news release from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the presence of zebra mussels in North Lida Lake has been confirmed.

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Late last week, DNR crews searched the lake near Pelican Rapids and discovered two zebra mussels about a half-mile from the location where, earlier this month, a lakeshore resident found a can with two adult zebra mussels attached to it in front of a private lake access.

Based on their size, the press release states, the newly discovered mussels are at least 2 years old, “which suggests there are at least two different year classes in the lake and both are of reproductive age.”

“The zebra mussel veligers, or larvae, are in the lake and can disperse to new areas downstream,” said Joe Eisterhold, DNR Northwest Region aquatic invasive species specialist. “If zebra mussels have been present in North Lida Lake for several years, the veligers are possibly already in South Lida and Venstrom lakes.”

The DNR will now designate North Lida, South Lida and Venstrom lakes as infested waters and signs will be posted at all public accesses. That does not mean each lake is confirmed to be infested, but rather that zebra mussels have been detected in a lake accessible by boat from those accesses and spread is likely between those connected waters.

Lake Detroiters President Barb Halbakken Fischburg, who was one of two Detroit Lakes residents appointed to a new statewide Aquatic Invasive Species Advisory Committee this year by DNR Commissioner Thomas Landwehr, said this latest AIS infestation should serve as a wake-up call.

“It helps underscore the gravity of the problem, and how important it is to protect the lakes at the top of our watersheds,” she said Thursday, referring to the fact that Pelican Lake and Lake Lizzie, both located nearby, were declared as being infested with zebra mussels in 2009.

“In the case of Pelican Lake, that watershed will drain all the way to the Red River in Breckenridge,” added Halbakken Fischburg. “And we know there have been veligers found in the Red River there.”

Once a lake has been declared as infested with one type of aquatic invasive species, it’s even more important to remain vigilant, she added.

“Once a lake becomes infested, that’s the time you need to be even more vigilant to protect it from other invasives,” she continued, “because once it gets infested with one invasive, it starts altering (the lake’s) natural ecosystem, and every time a new invasive is introduced, that ecosystem becomes more compromised.”

Halbakken Fischburg also noted that there are other invasives, besides zebra mussels, “that can be equally or more devastating to a lake’s natural ecosystem.”

“It’s not the time to give up (once a zebra mussel infestation has been declared),” she said.

While it’s important to remain cautious, it’s equally important to not panic every time a report comes in alleging that there are zebra mussels present in a lake or river, she added.

Halbakken Fischburg said she felt a recent report alleging someone had found zebra mussels in Detroit Lake was “not really news.”

“We get these reports all the time, and we go check it out,” she added, but so far the reports have proved to be unfounded.

Divers from the Department of Natural Resources spent several hours this past Monday and Tuesday in Detroit Lake looking for the mussels in the area where they were reported, but nothing was discovered, and Eisterhold said he felt the report was “somewhat suspect” because the divers did find things such as bladderwort (a native aquatic plant with bulbous projections) and small snails that might easily have been mistaken for zebra mussels by the uninitiated.

Another water body currently under investigation by the DNR for suspected zebra mussels is Lake Latoka in Douglas County, near Alexandria.

Lake Latoka will also be designated as infested, according to the DNR news release.

Earlier this month, a snorkeler found a 3- or 4-year old zebra mussel in the lake. DNR biologists recently searched the area near the find, but were unable to locate any additional zebra mussels. In this case, the DNR will designate this water as infested as a precaution until additional searches of Lake Latoka can be conducted.

“These designations mean that regulations, education and enforcement to limit the spread of invasive species will increase in these waters,” said Eisterhold.

Anglers, boaters and other recreational water users are reminded by the DNR to take the following steps before leaving a water access:

  • Clean boat by removing plants, zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species from watercraft, trailer, anchor and all water-related equipment.
  • Drain water-related equipment (boat, ballast tanks, portable bait container, and motor) and drain bilge, livewell and baitwell by removing drain plugs. Keep drain plugs out and all water-draining devices open while transporting watercraft.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait, including minnows, leeches and worms, in the trash. Plan ahead to save bait by transferring it to containers prefilled with bottled or purified tap water.

Keeping a boat out of the water for at least five days before moving from one lake to another is also recommended — but it may not be enough, noted Halbakken Fischburg.

“Research has shown adult zebra mussels can live out of the water for up to 30 days,” she said, “and veligers can live in water for 27 days.”

There are all kinds of “little nooks and crannies” in a boat or other watercraft where the mussels can hide, she said.

“We wish we had professional decontamination units available to the public,” she continued. “When people go into infested waters, it’s one of the best ways to ensure that you are not transferring invasives. But the state has not set up a system to make professional decontamination available to the public. It makes it really difficult for a lay person (to ensure against the spread of AIS), especially if they have a complex boat system.

“Education is really important, but that’s not going to solve the program alone,” she concluded.

More information about aquatic invasive species is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/AIS.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

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