Destructive zebra mussel population exploding in Lady Bird Lake

Media Release

Destructive zebra mussel population exploding in Lady Bird Lake

Austin, TX Invasive, highly destructive zebra mussels continue to rapidly populate the Texas Colorado River basin, with remarkably large clumps of the destructive bivalves glomming onto docks and equipment in Lake Travis, Lake Austin, and now Lady Bird Lake.

In August, staff at Rowing Dock, a boat-rental operation on Lady Bird Lake, noticed an explosion of encrustations: “We removed a buoy line from the water last week and found it covered with zebra mussels,” said Lindsay Rohler, General Manager of Rowing Dock.

Zebra mussels were first confirmed in the Texas Colorado River basin in early July 2017 in Lake Travis.

Both Lake Travis and Lake Austin are now officially “infested,” according to Texas Parks & Wildlife, and populations are growing rapidly in Lady Bird Lake.

“It’s only been a year, and already these mussels are costing property owners thousands of dollars,” Colorado River Alliance Executive Director, R. Brent Lyles, said. “They reproduce so quickly that they clog up water pipes and damage boats.”

Lyles said the rapid expansion of the zebra mussel population will hurt other mussel species in the river, which will also threaten wildlife in the river.

“Our state’s native freshwater mussels have been called the ‘livers of the river’ because they help keep the water clean,” Lyles said. “But since non-native zebra mussels have almost no predators here, they reproduce like crazy, crowding out the native populations of helpful mussels. Over the next couple of years, we’re going to see significant changes in the river’s ecosystems, upstream and downstream.”

Zebra mussels are filter feeders, and by removing too much nutrient-rich plankton, for instance, they also threaten other parts of the food chain, including insects and fish.

Though zebra mussels breed and spread quickly – one zebra mussel can produce one million larvae – the spread can still be prevented by keeping all boats cleaned, drained, and dried between trips, according to the website TexasInvasives.org.

For more information about potential future solutions and mussel-monitoring efforts in the Colorado River basin, which are coordinated by LCRA, citizens and media representatives are encouraged to watch the video archive of the Colorado River Alliance’s recent panel discussion on invasive zebra mussels. It is available on the Alliance’s Facebook page, here: https://www.facebook.com/ColoradoRiverAlliance/videos/10155270741241402/

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has confirmed 12 Texas lakes to be “infested” with zebra mussels. Five other lakes in the state have tested positive for the mussels but have not been declared infested because breeding populations have not been established there yet.