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Muscling up against mussels in Douglas County

Douglas County Commissioners approved a list of action items to try to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species - specifically zebra mussels - in Douglas County lakes.

Douglas County Commissioners are plunging right in.

On Tuesday, the board approved a list of action items to try to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species - specifically zebra mussels - in Douglas County lakes.

Currently, seven lakes are infested with zebra mussels: Lakes Darling, Carlos, L'Homme Dieu, Geneva, Victoria, Jessie and Alvin.

With a 4-0 vote, the county board authorized moving forward to:

• Take the position that no further lakes in the county shall become infested with zebra mussels or other aquatic invasive species.

• Appoint Dave Rush, director of the county's land and resource management department to serve as a zebra mussel "czar" to implement board-directed action to control, contain and eradicate zebra mussels.

• Sign a letter of intent with county lake associations indicating a united front to address zebra mussel contain-ment and eradication.

• Commit an unspecified amount of funding to develop and place signage at lake access points. The Douglas County Citizen's Committee (DCCC) recommended signage costs of about $1,500. The signs, stating "Don't Move a Mussel," would inform water-craft owners about pulling the boat's drain plug, draining live wells and bait buckets and washing watercraft and trailers.

• Commit an unspecified amount of funding to establish a watercraft decontamination facility - also referred to as a washing station. A washing station would offer a spot at a lake access for watercraft owners to use hot water to wash off their boat, limiting the chance of transporting zebra mussels to another lake. With the Department of Natural Resource's permission, the DCCC recommended a $26,000 washing unit be placed at the north access on Lake Geneva as part of a pilot project. That access has the space for a wash station and the Geneva Lake Association reportedly supports the concept.

The citizen committee also noted the DNR's volunteer watercraft inspector program. In an effort to contain the zebra mussels and prevent their spread, volunteers would set up at a public access and inspect watercraft exiting a lake infested with zebra mussels. A volunteer watercraft inspector training session will be held Friday, May 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Douglas County Public Works building.

This list of action items was based on the recommendations of the DCCC - a group of citizens appointed by the county board to explore the impact of zebra mussels and make recommendations to stop the invasion.

The DCCC suggested Tuesday that efforts like the "Don't Move a Mussel" signage at lake accesses could be in place before the fishing opener on May 14.

When asked how much the board intends to spend on the zebra mussel control effort, commissioners Norm Salto and Dan Olson said it likely wouldn't be any more than $30,000.

Rush - the newly designated zebra mussel czar - told the board he could come up with a portion of the funding from his department's budget.