Weather Forecast


Zebra mussels infest first Meeker County Lake

HUTCHINSON – Two popular Meeker County lakes now join the growing list of lakes in Minnesota infested by zebra mussels.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported Tuesday that zebra mussels have been found in Lake Stella. It is now designated as an infested lake.

The DNR will also apply the designation on Washington Lake, immediately downstream, although no zebra mussels have been found in it yet.

The infestation in Lake Stella is the first by zebra mussels in Meeker County. This summer the county’s aquatic invasive species committee decided to set aside a $20,000 emergency fund to handle a zebra mussel infestation should it occur.

“And it isn’t a week later and we found it,’’ said Gene Putzier, a member of the county’s committee and of the Lake Stella Association.

Putzier said the zebra mussel finding in Lake Stella was a surprise to many. Lake Stella is not a large lake at 596 acres, and does no see as much boat traffic from outside the area as do some other lakes. It’s not the lake many would have expected to be the county’s first infected waters.

A property owner on Lake Stella brought a zebra mussel to the Hutchinson DNR office for positive identification on July 6, according to the DNR. He had found it attached to a native mussel in about three feet of water in Lake Stella.

Nicholas Brown, DNR invasive species specialist in Hutchinson, confirmed the specimen was an adult zebra mussel. A second zebra mussel was later reported by the property owner in a different part of the lake. Brown confirmed that one too.

Putzier said the second mussel was attached to a strand of milfoil that washed up on a shore, so it’s not know if it originated in the same area as the first one.

He said the lake association will do its best to “be a good neighbor’’ and encourage anyone using the lake to follow the required protocol of emptying water before leaving.

The waters of Lake Stella flow into Lake Washington, and there is boat traffic between the bodies of water. Members of the Lake Washington Improvement Association had already been monitoring the waters for the invasive species. A large lake of 2,433 acres, it sees more boat traffic than its neighbor.

Property owners on Washington Lake had set a number of cinder blocks in waters around the lake, and check them regularly to see if zebra mussels attach to them. To date, none have been found.

“We are going to be increasing our vigilance around the lake,’’ said Kevin Klehr, a Lake Washington Improvement Association member.

Many now believe it’s inevitable that zebra mussels will infest the lake, according to Steve Grotbo, a member of the association’s board of directors.

He said it’s unclear what can be done if they are found, but in either case, the association will be promoting education efforts to let everyone know what they need to do to prevent their spread.

The association has been working with the DNR to control Eurasian milfoil in Washington Lake. The association had been treating about 70 acres of Eurasian milfoil with herbicide. It has not found any in the last two years.

Lake residents have seen lots of cormorants and pelicans, and are asking the DNR for help with them. The birds are blamed by many for adversely affecting the lake’s game fish population, said Klehr.

According to the DNR, preventing the spread of invasive species requires personal responsibility. Before leaving a lake, aquatic invasive species laws require boaters and anglers to:

· Clean aquatic plants and animals from watercraft.

· Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keep drain plugs out while transporting watercraft.

· Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.

“We want to stress that lake users need to be diligent in following the laws, including inspecting, cleaning, and draining boats and disposing of unwanted bait in the trash,” Brown said in a news release. “Following these steps will help prevent the spread of all invasive species.”

When removing boats, docks, lifts, or other water-related equipment from lakes and rivers, carefully inspect everything to make sure there are no invasive species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil or New Zealand mudsnails attached. Examine posts, wheels and underwater support bars of docks and lifts, as well as boats, pontoons and rafts that have been in water for an extended period. Docks and related equipment must be allowed to dry for 21 days before moving them into another body of water.

For more information on AIS prevention and how to report a suspected infestation, visit

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335