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Becker County's Lake Eunice infected with zebra mussels; third Becker County Lake

Residents of Lake Eunice got some bad news late last week, when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources made the official announcement that their lake was the third in Becker County to be infested with zebra mussels.

On June 22, a citizen provided DNR aquatic invasive species (AIS) staff in Fergus Falls with a photo of what he thought was a zebra mussel, attached to a freshwater clam that he had collected on the southeast side of Lake Eunice.

“We verified that it was a zebra mussel, and went out there (to Lake Eunice) to search and see if we could find more,” said Mark Ranweiler, the assistant AIS specialist for the DNR in Fergus Falls.

“We had two divers out there as well as people just snorkeling and wading along the lakeshore.”

In all, DNR crews inspected more than 580 objects at six locations, including rocks, sticks, plants, docks and native clams. Unfortunately, the search proved fruitful.

“We found a total of eight zebra mussels scattered around the lake,” at four different locations, Ranweiler said. “We also searched another lake upstream, Lake Maud, but were unable to locate any zebra mussels, so that lake will not be designated as infested.”

Lake Eunice, which like its two Becker County predecessors, Lake Melissa and Pickerel Lake, will now officially be listed on the DNR’s website as infested with zebra mussels — a designation that, as of this time, is essentially permanent.

“It’s really difficult to treat for zebra mussels,” Ranweiler said, noting that it’s only feasible in instances where the zebra mussel population in a lake appears to be isolated to one area — and even in instances where such an isolated mussel population is discovered, such as Christmas Lake in Shorewood, Minn., the treatment has not been consistently effective.

“People think there’s a cure out there right now, and there really isn’t,” says Tera Guetter, administrator of the Pelican River Watershed District and current president of the Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations.

And even if treatment is an option in some areas where the mussel population appears isolated, such is not the case for Lake Eunice, Ranweiler noted.

“Treatment for Lake Eunice really wouldn’t be warranted, because they (the zebra mussels) were scattered throughout the lake,” he said.

For those who feel that infestation of all Minnesota lakes with these invasive species is inevitable, however, Ranweiler has some encouragement to offer.

“Less than 5 percent of all Minnesota lakes are designated as infested,” he said.

“Prevention is the key,” Guetter said, noting that owners of personal watercraft, boats, pontoons, boat lifts, docks and other equipment that regularly comes in contact with lake water to step up and “take personal responsibility” for inspecting, cleaning and drying out their equipment before moving it between lakes and rivers.

“People may think they’re on a non-infested lake, but it might not be,” she cautioned, noting that it takes approximately two years from the time a lake is exposed to zebra mussels for the population to reach a level where the infestation will show up.

Aquatic invasive species prevention in local lakes will be a major topic of discussion at this Thursday’s Becker County COLA meeting, which is set to get underway at 6:30 p.m. inside the Holiday Inn’s Cormorant Room.

Karl Koenig, AIS prevention coordinator with the Becker Soil and Water Conservation District (which took over administration of the AIS program this past year) will be giving an update on the program during the meeting, which is open to the public.

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, dnr.state.mn.us.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at@VickiLGerdes.

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