Statewide Rules to Fight Zebra Mussels Take Effect

Wildlife officials hope to eliminate spread of the invasive species

Newly expanded boating rules to fight the spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species statewide are now in effect.

"Any lake in the State of Texas has to abide by those rules: clean, drain, and dry," said Denton County Game Warden Daron Blackerby.

The rules taking effect Tuesday were proposed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. They require boaters on lakes and rivers statewide to drain watercraft to eliminate the spread of the pests.

Right now lakes like Texoma and Ray Roberts are already infested with zebra mussels. The drought conditions have revealed just how bad the situation is as the shoreline is littered with dried up mussels near several Ray Roberts boat ramps in Sanger.

"Sometimes you'll get hung up and pull a piece of timber up and it'll just be covered in zebra mussels, the whole time. Any brush pile, basically anything out here they can stick to they're going to be on it," said boater Blake Hamilton.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission voted in May to expand statewide rules that had been imposed previously on a lake-by-lake and county-by-county basis.

"If we can get the problem solved up here in North Texas, hopefully we can have a solution for the lakes in South Texas and further south," said Blackerby.

Zebra mussels were first confirmed in Texas in Lake Texoma in 2009 and spread quickly through North Texas and into Central Texas, clogging pipes and damaging boat motors.

Authorities believe the infestations are accelerated by people who don't drain and clean their boats and trailers and move from waterway to waterway around the state.

NBC 5's Brian Scott contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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