Since the end of June, zebra mussels have only been found in one lake on Alexandria's chain of lakes - Lake L'Homme Dieu.
When the discovery was made, the lake was immediately added to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources infested waters list.
Since that time, zebra mussels have not been found in any other lake on the chain.
However, last week, the DNR designated six more lakes, which are connected to Lake L'Homme Dieu, as infested waters.
The lakes in Douglas County that have now been added to the state register with the infested waters designation include L'Homme Dieu, Carlos, Darling, Geneva, Victoria, Jessie and Alvin.
The reason for the designation - even though zebra mussels have not yet been found - is because DNR specialists believe that these waters are likely to become infested.
Zebra mussel veligers, which are larvae or baby mussels, can drift along between the lakes, as well as on boats traveling through the chain of lakes, according to the DNR.
Nathan Olson, a DNR invasive species specialist out of Fergus Falls who is working in this area because of the zebra mussels, said that adding these lakes to the infested waters list makes it easier for the DNR to enforce the rules.
Olson noted that the DNR recently hired another watercraft inspector for this area, who will help with educating the public about zebra mussels.
In addition, Olson has been giving presentations to area lake associations about the invasive species and what members can do to help the DNR.
"We don't have the manpower to scour all the lakes in the area," said Olson, adding that having the public educated and on the lookout for more zebra mussels is a big help. "We need people to be vigilant about looking for more zebra mussels. The more eyes, the better."
Over the Fourth of July holiday, Olson said that with the help of the public, more zebra mussels were found on Lake L'Homme Dieu. At least eight mussels have been found since the first discovery back in June.
Mitch Gesell, a local resident, found the first one attached to a coffee can in the northeast corner of Lake L'Homme Dieu. He was about 100 feet from the lakeshore in about four feet of water when he stepped on the coffee can, grabbed it and brought it to the surface, discovering the zebra mussel attached.
Two other lakes in the state have also recently been added to the infested waters list, according to Olson. He said shortly after L'Homme Dieu was added, Pike Lake in Duluth was added because zebra mussels were found, and that Prior Lake in the Twin Cities area was added as well.
On Thursday of this week, Olson will be meeting with lake association members for lakes Stony, Cowdry, Union, Taylor and Brophy. He is going to be talking with them to see if there is an option of closing the channel that connects those lakes with the chain of lakes.
In addition, sometime in August, the DNR plans to bring scuba divers into the area to help look for zebra mussels.
Thinking ahead to this fall, Olson said those living on the chain of lakes should make sure to thoroughly check their boatlifts and docks when they are pulled from the water. Additionally, if selling a boatlift or dock, make sure to properly inspect it for zebra mussels before it is transported to another lake.
If a zebra mussel is found on any area lake, the DNR should be contacted immediately. People can either call Olson at (218) 739-7576, extension 259 or call the DNR office in Glenwood at (320) 634-4573.
IT'S THE LAW
Before you leave a lake that has been labeled as infested waters with zebra mussels, you must do the following:
Drain water from motor, boat bilges, livewells and other boating equipment holding water. Drain plugs must be removed from bilges and livewells.
Drain water from bait containers. If you want to keep bait alive, you must replace water in bait containers with tap or spring water. Place unwanted bait in the trash.
Remove all aquatic plants and zebra mussels from your boat, trailer, anchors and other boating equipment.
For more information, contact the DNR at 1-888-MINNDNR (1-888-646-6367) or www.dnr.state.mn.us.