Starting July 1, all boats operating on public fresh water anywhere in Texas must be drained to help combat the spread of zebra mussels, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has announced.
But, as Memorial Day weekend approaches, the commission is urging all boaters to begin the preventative practice immediately.
Microscopic larvae that hide in boats can travel to another water body and cause a new infestation.
Zebra mussels cover boats and motors, clog public-water intake pipes and water-cooling systems. Their razor-sharp shells can also make water recreation hazardous.
The U.S. Geological Survey in January confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in Lake Lavon in North Texas – and the invasive species appears to be on the move.
The presence of live zebra mussels or their larvae had already been confirmed in at least five other Texas locations: Lakes Texoma, Ray Roberts, Lewisville, Bridgeport and Belton.
Conservation officials are concerned that zebra mussels could expand throughout the state, including Lake Travis and the other Highland Lakes.
“Zebra mussels have been moving steadily deeper into Texas since they were first found in Lake Texoma in 2009,” Brian Van Zee, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division regional director, said in a news release. He has spearheaded the agency’s response to zebra mussels in Texas. “Now that they are in Lake Belton, the Highland Lakes are in the cross hairs as are many of the public waters in Central Texas.”
The TPWD press release states: “Currently in effect in 47 North and Central Texas counties, the new rule requires persons leaving or approaching public water to drain all water from their vessels and on-board receptacles. This applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not, personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks/canoes, or any other vessel used on public waters.”