Boat owners are being reminded of the importance of cleaning their boats and equipment when moving from one water body to another. Last week, an individual who was about to launch his newly purchased boat into Lake Rathbun in southern Iowa noticed 30 to 40 zebra mussels attached to the hull. Kim Bogenschutz of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the exotic invasive species can spread rapidly and take over a water body.
"They clog water intake pipes, they filter water, compete with native species, clog beaches and just have a lot of nasty impacts to the water bodies that they infest," Bogenschutz said. A single zebra mussel female can produce more than 30,000 eggs. The boat at Lake Ruthbun was not launched and the transportation company, from Midland, North Carolina, was fined $100 for transporting zebra mussels on a vessel into Iowa. The fine for that violation is scheduled to increase to $500 in July.
Zebra mussels are native to Asia and were first found in the U.S. in Lake Erie in 1988. They’ve been spotted in the Mississippi River since 1992. Bogenschutz says mussels are still in the Mississippi River and they’ve turned up in a few interior lakes in Iowa – Clear Lake and Lake Delhi. "It’s a pretty new scenario for us here in Iowa and a species we certainly hope to prevent the spread of," Bogenschutz said. It has not been determined if zebra mussels have established a population in Rathbun Lake as a result of being introduced by a previous boat in 2007.
"We know that (Rathbun) has been exposed to zebra mussels, but whether or not they’ve actually taken hold and have established a reproducing population – that we haven’t determined yet," Bogenschutz said. The DNR and Army Corps of Engineers continue to monitor the lake for the presence of mussels. An estimated 800,000 people visit Lake Rathbun each year and the lake provides drinking water to 60,000 people in southeast Iowa and northeast Missouri.