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Kandiyohi County, DNR ramping up aquatic invasive species fight

Zebra mussels cover a rock pulled from Green Lake. It’s too early to know how the zebra mussel infestation of Lake Florida will impact the lake. (File)

SPICER - A third watercraft decontamination unit is on its way to Kandiyohi County, and more watercraft inspectors too. There will be more frequent watercraft inspections at the main access to Lake Florida now that the lake is known to be infested by zebra mussels.

"We're working with the county to make sure the main access is covered by more frequent inspections,'' said Skip Wright, district manager with ecological and water resources for the state Department of Natural Resources in Spicer.

It's all part of the response to last week's confirmation that zebra mussel veligers are present in Lake Florida. It's the second recreational lake in the county to be infested by the aquatic invasive species. Zebra mussels were found in Green Lake two years ago, and adjoining Calhoun Lake was also listed as infested as a result.

In addition to being a nuisance for lakeshore residents and others, zebra mussels can impact the environment of the lake. The DNR informational website says they eat tiny food particles, which can reduce available food for fish and other animals.

Wright said the confirmation of zebra mussels in Lake Florida should serve as an "all hands on deck'' call for people to be more vigilant to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Zebra mussels are one threat, but people also have to follow safe practices to avoid the spread of a wide range of other species too, including quagga mussels, spiny waterfleas and starry stonewort, Wright explained.

The DNR is relocating a hot water decontamination unit now stationed at Frontenac for use in the county. It is currently seeking staff to operate it. The county also operates units at the Saulsbury Beach access and at 4 Seasons Lawn & Beach near the Spicer water tower.

Zebra mussels were confirmed in Lake Florida last week when fisheries workers doing survey work on the lake submitted water samples for testing. Both samples produced positive hits for the presence of veligers, the tiny larvae of zebra mussels.

At this point no adult zebra mussels have been confirmed. Wright said the DNR will be sending scuba divers into the lake in search of adults. The DNR will also conduct a second, more extensive search for the mussels later in the season when lakeshore owners remove docks from the water.

Until this work is done, it is impossible to know the extent of the infestation.

It's also impossible to know the impact of the zebra mussel infestation in the lake. Every water body is different, and a variety of factors will determine how the mussels do in the lake.

Wright pointed out that 98 percent of the lakes in the state remain free of zebra mussels and other invasive species.

"We have to make sure we are doing everything we can to to prevent the spread of them from one lake to another. It's got to be a top priority for everybody that uses and enjoys our lakes,'' he said.

Tom Cherveny

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

(320) 214-4335
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