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Zebra mussels moving south of Ladybird Lake

Masses of zebra mussels can be found on the rocks at Lake Georgetown as the invasive species continues to spread around Central Texas. (Photo: CBS Austin)

Zebra mussels are now south of Lady Bird Lake and local municipalities are working to keep them clear of pipes carrying drinking water.

Local dive company Chapman Marine says they found several adult zebra mussels in the Colorado River by 183. The zebra mussels have worked their way south after they were found in Lake Travis last year.

“They’ve made it all the way below Austin through the highland lakes,” co-owner Philip Wolfe said. “And now they’re progressing downstream.”

This comes as the city of Round Rock released a video showing how they’re working to clear zebra mussels from water intake pipes in Lake Georgetown. The video shows several zebra mussels on the pipes and reminds boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats.

The city said in a press release they authorized the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority to, “begin improvements at the entity’s floating barge that will help mitigate the infestation of zebra mussels at the lake’s floating intake structures.”

Wolfe said he’s cleaned and inspected multiple floating barges of zebra mussels. “Where that water is coming in is the most important part,” Wolfe said. “Most of the time that’s where zebra mussels like to grow, they’ve got flow and that’s where they get their food.”

Wolfe said they can gather inside the pipes or on grates. He said he’s seen some grates around 25 percent covered in zebra mussels. He said at that point it’s an emergency for a municipality.

Wolfe said cities have been preparing for this for years. Now the zebra mussels are growing rapidly, and he’s getting a lot of calls. “Everybody is starting to schedule on a regular basis,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe even found several zebra mussels on his own barge in the Lake Travis Marina. He’s also found some boats at the marina that are a hundred percent covered on the bottom of the boat. “Nobody is exempt from this issue,” he said.

There are also piles of dead zebra mussels on the shore at the Lake Travis Marina as the water levels go down. These shells are very sharp and can cut anyone walking around. Wolfe said he was cut while diving.

“I put my hand up over my head like this just to clear anything above my head as I was coming up and I hit one and it just sliced my hand,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe showed a scar on his hand.

Wolfe said the zebra mussels are going to keep going downstream. They’re also going to keep coming back after he gets rid of them since there’s no known way to fully eradicate them.

That means the cost to cities will keep coming too.

“Where this was not a cost before you have this constant cost for the future from now on,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe also said the fall brings another spawning season. That means more zebra mussels will be coming by the end of the year.

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