Zebra mussels have now infected their fist lake in Central Wisconsin, and they could be spreading down the Wisconsin River, so the Department of Natural Resources is taking action.
The mussels were found two weeks ago in Nepco Lake south of Wisconsin Rapids. So far, the DNR says they have not been found in the Wisconsin River, but the agency plans to perform more in-depth surveys.
If the zebra mussels are contained to Nepco Lake, fish biologists say they may have to drain it to stop the zebra mussels from spreading.
It is a move that would be devastating to a local paper mill. Everyday, Domtar Industries uses 35 million gallons of the lake's water for making paper.
"The worst case scenario is we probably could not continue operation. We have approximately 1,300 employees that make paper and we certainly want to protect their interest also," said Craig Timm from Domtar Industries Inc.
The DNR and paper mill leaders are working together to come up with a solution. If they do need to drain the lake, the DNR says it could happen in January.
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- The scientific name for the Zebra mussel is Dreissena polymorpha.
- Zebra mussels are a type of mollusk, and are also called bivalves because they have two shells.
- The zebra mussel gets its name because of the dark, striped pattern on each valve. Usually the shell is a light color (tan, beige) with zigzag stripes.
- Though generally small, averaging about an inch in length, they can live for four to five years.
- Zebra mussels originated in the Balkans, Poland, and the former Soviet Union, and they were first discovered in the U.S. in Lake St. Clair in 1988.
- Zebra mussel spread rapidly throughout the Great Lakes region and in the large navigable rivers of the eastern Mississippi drainage including the Mississippi, Tennessee, Cumberland, Ohio, Arkansas, and Illinois rivers.
- The zebra mussel has the potential to inhabit most of the fresh waters of the U.S. and may impact a variety of native aquatic species and eventually entire ecosystems.
- The mussel tends to biofoul and restrict the flow of water through intake pipes, disrupting supplies of drinking, cooling, processing and irrigating water to the nation's domestic infrastructure.
- The mussel also attaches to boat hulls, docks, locks, breakwaters and navigation aids, increasing maintenance costs and impeding waterborne transport.
- The zebra mussels feed by filtering the water through a siphon, up to a liter per day. This is why they like the insides of pipes so well, there is a constant supply of water and food flowing by them.
- Zebra mussels are anchoring themselves by the thousands to native mussels making it impossible for the native mussel to function. As many as 10,000 zebra mussels have attached to a single native mussel.
- Zebra mussels do not have many natural predators in North America. But, it has been documented that several species of fish and diving ducks have been known to eat them.
(The U.S. Geological Survey Florida Caribbean Science Center Web site)