Zebra mussels confirmed in Lake Melissa - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Zebra mussels confirmed in Lake Melissa

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UPDATE: The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources tells Valley News Live that zebra mussels have moved in to Lake Melissa outside of Detroit Lakes. 

Forming a dense layer razor-sharp shells and filtering lake water, experts fear for the recreational use and health of the lake.

"The water will actually become clearer, which could then promote plant growth, which could potentially change the fish species composition in the water," says Minnesota DNR Ecological and Water Resources Southern District Manager Barry Stratton.

DNR experts say the zebra mussels are not able to travel up-stream, but are transported by human interaction from lake to lake.

"They could have been attached to a boat and came off, they could have been transported on a dock, a lift, other water-related equipment," says Stratton.

Now that zebra mussels have been confirmed in Lake Melissa, DNR officials say there will be an increased presence of inspectors in lakes country.

"You want to arrive clean; you want to leave the water body clean. That involves, obviously, moving any vegetation, muck or mud that's attached to your boat," says Minnesota DNR Ecological and Water Resources Assistant AIS Specialist Mark Ranweiler.

Ranweiler is working as an inspector of watercrafts going in and out of the lake. He says the DNR is also asking you drain all live wells, leave drain plugs open during transportation and dispose of any unwanted live bait.  

Summer resident Hans Tronnes has been coming to Lake Melissa since he was a kid.

"I've been here my whole life...summers...and we think of it as our little slice of heaven," says Tronnes.

As a member of the homeowner's association, he'll be working alongside state agencies to fight the invasive species taking over his summer paradise...for the health of the lake, his sake and the sake of future generations.

"We're concerned about the effect on the water, the quality of the water and the ability of our children...and grandchildren...to play in the water," he says.

DNR officials say Governor Dayton recently signed a bill that will put $10 million into counties with plans to fight aquatic invasive species. Experts we spoke to say they plan to use those funds for this effort in lakes country when they come in July.

Zebra mussels have been confirmed in Lake Melissa, located southwest of Detroit Lakes in Becker County, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

A citizen discovered the zebra mussels earlier in the week while collecting shells on the south end of the lake, near the outlet structure.

“This is the first confirmed zebra mussel find in the Detroit Lakes area,” said Barry Stratton, DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division, southern district manager. “We’re extremely pleased that this discovery was reported so quickly and with such detail. The report included specific location information and photos that allowed us to respond immediately to the exact spot.”

Following the confirmation, DNR staff conducted a search on Lake Sallie, which is upstream from Lake Melissa in west-central Minnesota. The crew inspected more than 700 items, but no zebra mussels were found. The DNR also briefly searched Mill Pond, downstream of Lake Melissa, and found nothing. Both lakes are connected to Lake Melissa via the Pelican River.

Due to their location downstream, Lake Melissa, Mill Pond and Minnow Pond (Buck’s Mill Pond) will be designated as infested. All waters downstream of Mill Pond are already designated as infested with zebra mussels.

This latest zebra mussel discovery underscores the importance of the tax bill signed in May by Gov. Mark Dayton that adds an additional $10 million per year in state spending targeted to local governments for programs to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).

“While this discovery is unfortunate, the AIS funding to our county couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Tera Guetter, Pelican River Watershed District administrator.

Zebra mussels are non-native species that can crowd out native mussels and compete for food sources with other aquatic animals such as larval fish. They attach to boat hulls and their shells may wash up onto beaches in large numbers.

Becker County officials, the Pelican River Watershed District, area lake organizations and the DNR are partnering to coordinate DNR inspectors and train volunteer inspectors to work at Lake Sallie and Lake Melissa boat accesses. The DNR will designate and post infested waters signs on Lake Melissa and Mill Pond. Becker County has temporarily closed the tram at Dunton Locks County Park between Lake Sallie and Muskrat Lake as a precautionary measure. Zebra mussel search efforts will continue in Lake Sallie and Muskrat Lake.

“These partnerships are critical to the invasive species fight,” said Steve Skoog, Becker County Environmental Services administrator. “Our county AIS plan has been developed to deal with these situations and we need all eyes and ears and resources now to help us implement this plan.”

The DNR also recently confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in Lake Ida near Alexandria in Douglas County and will designate it as infested, as well as Lake Charley and Lake Louise, which are both downstream from Lake Ida.

Preventing the spread of invasive species takes personal responsibility. Before leaving any water access or shoreland, boaters must remove all aquatic vegetation, dispose of bait, drain all water by removing drain plugs and keep drain plugs out while transporting watercraft.

More information about zebra mussels, how to inspect boats and other water-related equipment, and a current list of designated infested waters is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/ais.
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