Oklahoma Lakes Being Invaded

Sunday, May 25th 2008, 6:09 pm
By: News On 6

The Army Corps of Engineers are putting out a warning as the summer boating season gets underway. The Zebra mussel population continues to get bigger and bigger.

The News On 6's Dan Bewley reports Zebra mussels are tiny, about the size of a small fingernail and an adult female can produce as many as 100,000 eggs a year.

The Corps says of the 38 lakes it manages in Oklahoma, Zebra mussels have infested 14.

Keystone Lake harbors a pintsize parasite-like infestation. No one knows just how many of the Zebra mussels are in Oklahoma lakes.

"The best analogy I can give you is, have you ever tried counting the stars?" said Ross Adkins of the Corps of Engineers with a laugh.

They get everywhere from discarded cars from the lakebed, even crawfish.

But the big problem is when they make their way to boat engines. The tiny creatures can quickly fill valves and filters.

"Some of these guys out here running $15,000 or $20,000 motors in these boats," said Michael Darst.

"It can ruin the engine, on the intake of the engine. It can clog that up, you'll have an overheated engine and you have a very big maintenance problem then," said Adkins.

With no natural predators, Adkins says, it's virtually impossible to clear the lakes completely of Zebra mussels which is why, he says, to check out your boat when you take it out of the water.

The best bet, he says, is to use a power washer and a water temperature of more than 140-degrees; the Zebra mussels don't like that.

Darst is well aware of the Zebra mussel problem. A boat that is a little older and has engine issues gets serviced after nearly every time out on the lake and newer boats get a good share of cleaning as well.

"My other boats, my inboards, I do take and wash them out real good," said Darst.

The Corps hopes more people follow his lead. The only way to get a handle on it, they say, is if every boater works to control a tiny crustacean from becoming a big problem.