Zebra Mussel Threat to Texas Lakes is Misunderestimated

Categories: Schutze

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Three weeks ago I wrote a column for the paper about a plan to pump drinking water from Lake Texoma even though the lake is contaminated by zebra mussels, an invasive species that can annihilate other animal life in a lake and promote blooms of toxic algae.

We here in Texas seriously do not understand what this problem is all about. A friend sent me a link to online comments from viewers who saw a zebra mussel story broadcast January 16 by KXII-Channel 12 in Sherman. Taken together, I have to say neither the viewers nor the reporter nor the state officials quoted in the story seem to really grasp what this is.

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Via.
Zebra mussels, brought to North America from Europe in the ballast water of ships, reproduce ferociously and become a vast straining mechanism that strips all of the microscopic nutrients from a lake. Far from natural predators in their native lands, zebra mussels are powerful life-killers now threatening ecosystems in the Great Lakes, which hold 21 percent of the earth's fresh surface water.

For a while after the mussels were discovered in Texoma, the North Texas Municipal Water District was barred from pumping drinking water out of Texoma into Lake Lavon and distributing it to communities. But the NTMWD recently won permission to begin pumping again, using a zebra mussel control system far cheaper and less certain than methods used where drinking water is pumped from the Great Lakes.

When I wrote my story about this, a spokesperson for NTMWD told me that zebra mussels actually clean the water and have no effect on drinking water. But experts elsewhere told me this was a dangerous misconception. The mussels, they said, kill the ecosystems in lakes and promote growth of deadly toxic algae.

Lake Lavon, to which NTMWD will pump the water it takes from Texoma, is linked by rivers and pipes to lakes and reservoirs all over Texas. Zebra mussels spread as microscopic larvae that cannot be filtered. If the NTMWD makes one mistake and pumps a cloud of larvae into Lavon, all of the lakes and rivers in the state will be threatened with ruin.

In comments to the Channel 12 story, one viewer asked why Texas was not investigating the use of certain bacteria that could be bio-engineered to attack the zebra mussels. But, look, scientists all over the world are searching furiously for anything and everything that could stop the zebra mussel.

Before Texas starts trying to solve the problem itself, Texas needs to get online and trade some emails with people who have been working this problem for years.

There is no solution. So far. There is no way to stop them once they invade a body of water. That's why this is such a serious problem.

The roll of the dice that the NTMWD is taking is this: It's the value of more lawn-watering water for the suburbs north of Dallas versus the destruction of the water supply and marine environment for the rest of Texas. And this risk is being taken here, in the state's least drought-stricken area.

Because of the way the Channel 12 story was edited, many viewers apparently thought Cliff Moore, a wildlife expert who appears in the piece, was a state official. He's not. He works for a private company. He speaks for himself, however, when he talks about Texoma, a lake he grew up fishing and boating on.

He tells Channel 12: "This is my backyard. This is my lake. My lake is gone."

What he means is that the old days of open fishing and boats in and out of Texoma are gone, or should be. Lake Texoma should be rigidly quarantined. No one should be allowed to pump water from it, ever. The lake should be closed to boats from other lakes or boats kept at home, a move that would wipe out the lake's large recreational industry.

So why would a guy who loves Texoma and grew up on it ever propose doing something like that? "I don't want to lose the rest of Texas," he says in the piece.

Of course there are commenters who think he's a scoundrel and wonder how anybody could ever say a thing like about such a beautiful lake, but those are people who simply do not understand the scope of the threat. Moore is the boy who cried wolf when the wolves were just about to break the hill.

Somewhere in Texas, somebody has a serious dog in this hunt, a major stake in the state's water supply and marine environment. That person or people need to step up.

I think I'm talking about you.

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Brian Tate
Brian Tate

Jim's article is rendenered untrustworthy mostly because of the FACT that he does not do his homework and research yet spews his biased "reporting" anyway. " Who needs facts when you have an opinion"  must be his montra.  The water will not be pumped to Lavon just so the undeserving people north of Dallas can water their lawns not that that's a bad thing. Zebra mussels are ALREADY in tributaries that feed into Lake Lavon. You know that Jim!!!!  You would have to stop all boating at Texoma unless the boat NEVER leaves the lake because the Zebra Mussels readily attach to boats. Are you gonna suggest that, Jim?? If you are gonna write a personal opinions piece, call it an editorial.  SIGNED, Brian L. Tate 

JimS
JimS

Brian, you're full of shit. There are no zebra mussels coming into Lavon by tributaries. That's why there is so much effort to prevent them from coming in from Texoma. Can you maybe think that one thorugh for a second and see if you can get it?  In Southern California, where a number of reservoirs and lakes are threatened, they do just what you describe here -- ban all boating except by boats that never leave that particular lake. Why wouldn't they? Why wouldn't we? Do you think it;s worth killing a lake to keep the marina business alive? Brian, how long do you think the marina business will last, after the lake is dead? It's coming out your ears, Brian. Take a smart pill every little chance you get. 

Clcolman
Clcolman

Some of you people need to get educated on Zebra mussels before making such ignorant remarks. There is a wealth of info available. Take the time to do it. Then make a comment.

Mammym
Mammym

Now, If we could just get the feral hogs to eat the zebra mussels...

cockadoodledoooo
cockadoodledoooo

Steamed Mussels sound delicious! I didn't know you wrote for, City of Ate, Schutze. And eating them lakeside, all the better....YUM

CJAZ
CJAZ

This just in... John Wiley Price is mad at Schultze because Price thinks that the term "zebra mussels" is racist...

CJAZ
CJAZ

Jim-You write that Texoma utilizes "a zebra mussel control system far cheaper and less certain than methods used where drinking water is pumped from the Great Lakes." This implies that despite the invasion of zebra mussels in the Great Lakes, officials there are still pumping drinking water into homes. So please elaborate on why Texas' system is inadequate and why the Great Lakes' systems are safer. (Seriously - you missed out on a chance to proclaim why Detroit et al is better than Dallas. You're slipping, Schutze.)...

JimS
JimS

Great Lakes entities that pump from mussel-infested areas of the lakes use an expensive system that chlorinates the water they pump at the point of intake, killing the spores (wrong term), and then de-chlorinates the water again at the outfall if the water is to be stored in a reservoir. That system is considered foolproof but very expensive. NTMWD is not being required to do this by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And no other government entity in Terxas is even weighing in to protect the rest of Texas rivers and reservoirs. So our entire water supply is in the hands of the Corps, and the NTMWD, in effect.

CJAZ
CJAZ

Very helpful, thx. Hey, but our water is being protected by the Corps - what could possibly go wrong?

NotTheSuburbs
NotTheSuburbs

Ok, let me get this straight.  The Zebra mussels have spread from Asia to the Great Lakes and down to Texoma but somehow we are going to be able to magically stop them at Texoma?

Killer bees, fire ants, kudzu, mediterranean fruit flies, those wierd snake fish things, can't be stopped from spreading or eradicated.  Chances are that they are already in Lavon and most of the other lakes.  If not they will be there shortly.

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

One of the ways zebra mussels spread to various water systems is by hitching rides on boats. What is happening is Joe in the Great lakes takes his boat from there to visit a lake south of him (with the mussels hitching a ride). Since he didn't bother to clean his boat before doing so, the mussels infect that lake. This keeps on happening until it got down to Lake Texoma. Right now, they are not in Lake Lavon. However, all it would take is one boat or just some of their spawn getting pumped into Lake Lavon. Then, you either seal off Lake Lavon or it spreads to Lake Ray Hubbard (one of Dallas' main reservoirs). But, if you seal off Lake Lavon, Lake Ray Hubbard pretty much dries up because that is where most of the water for Hubbard comes from.

JimS
JimS

You forgot about the Red River, Tim.

engmofo
engmofo

Or just leave it empty , invite us over & we'll pay to skate it?

Crap Detector
Crap Detector

Quit trying to blame suburbs, specifically those in Collin County, by assigning a misperception that all the residents "up there" want to do is water their lawns and therefore this has caused the problem.  It's more complex than that.

Citizen Kim
Citizen Kim

Jim uses the Collin County suburbs the way Hitler used the Jews.  It fires up the readers.

Fletch
Fletch

Agreed.  I live in the northern suburbs in the area covered by the NTMWD and, given the circumstances, I am not the least bit concerned with watering my yard.  All I want to do is water around the foundation and keep the trees alive.  To hell with the yard.

Crap Detector
Crap Detector

@Fletch - I installed a drip irrigation line around my house foundation, set on a separate zone of my sprinkler system. Like you, the foundation and trees are the priority and I'd actually prefer to just rip up the lawn and install more hardscaping/xeriscaping. I've already planted native/adapted perennials to reduce water consumption. I've had to ask my HOA for permission to install rain barrels. The evil HOAs which have sprung up like weeds in TX will need to change their tune as a result of our changing environmental situation - dare we hope such evolution could occur????

RTGolden
RTGolden

Trees don't vote, my friend, trees don't vote.

Bob Loblaw
Bob Loblaw

How do you decide that one wild animal is "bad" while another is good?  Seriously.  Why is a thriving population of zebra mussels bad while a population of some spotted minnow or something is good?  Populations of animals have always changed.  Should we get rid of the mammals so the reptiles can have the area back?  Besides which, nothing has worked so far, why will this?

Augie
Augie

You need to educate yourself.  These things take over the body of water and if it is a lake, take it over to the extent the wipe out every other living species.  That is not good.

Willie
Willie

Good lord, you're a moron, too.  Do we need to give you a primer on invasive species and the havoc they wreck?  

Paul Burrough
Paul Burrough

I'd welcome an invasive species if they really will "wreck" havoc.

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

If one wild animal's existence precludes the existence of any other animal within an ecosystem then it can be classified as "bad". Is that really that difficult to understand?

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Kind of like the human animal does whenever it invades an ecosystem, right?

But that's not bad...

Justin Julian
Justin Julian

Hey Shutze, you made a serious error in this article: you omitted any reference to Rick Perry being an idiot.  Expect a reprimand from the Obs powers that be when you get in tomorrow.

Georget
Georget

While I'm against the pumping, Dallas deserves a HUGE part of the blame in this situation.  If City of Dallas had conserved water when everybody else did, they would be able to share it with the NTMWD and this whole thing might be completely unnecessary.

Willie
Willie

Are you a moron?  Dallas has nothing to do with NTMWD's problem.  Dallas has no obligation to share water with anyone but I'll tell you what.  If the other counties would pony up and pay their share of costs for their residents to be treated at Parkland Hospital, then Dallas should offer to sell them water.    

John_McKee
John_McKee

I love this kind of popular conservative argument. Dallas, liberal city of high taxes is just terrible, we must flee to the lower tax suburbian utopia of conservative values. Then, Help! Help! Look, you guys have spent your tax money on making sure you have a good water supply, give us some water because we didn't plan for this like you did with your liberal tax spending but now we really need some water and you guys should cut back and give it to us.

Privatize the profits, socialize the risk, the mantra of conservatives.

JanM
JanM

Dallas has plenty of water. It comes and goes no matter whether we water our lawns or not. But why should we give it to NTMWD?

Montemalone
Montemalone

NOBODY has conserved water in Texas. Are you mental?

pak152
pak152

rarely do I ever agree with JimS, but this is one of those times. no water should be pumped from Texoma ever since it now contains zebra mussels.. want to see Texas waters screwed up? then go ahead. these critters have cause numerous problems wherever they''ve been introduced

Rt1942
Rt1942

Unfortunately it is just a matter of time until the zebra mussels are in the other lakes in Texas whether any water is pumped from Texoma or not.  Just take a look at this USGS website:

http://fl.biology.usgs.gov/Non...

Paul Burrough
Paul Burrough

"The mussels, they said, kill the ecosystems in lakes and promote growth of deadly toxic algae."

What about the ecosystems that have been killed by the construction of all these man-made lakes?  Texas has one natural lake.  It's hard to get misty about algal blooms in a bunch of overgrown stock tanks.  I say backfill 'em and learn how to conserve water the way the rest of the world does.

Willie
Willie

You got rocks for a brain or what?  The reservoirs haven't affected any ecosystem, as you call it.  Dallas and Collin Counties are in the blackland prairie ecoregion and all the crap that covers it up is the problem, not the lakes.  And, BTW, Caddo Lake was formed by a log jam, which in my limnology book doesn't meet the definition of natural.

Perry Moore
Perry Moore

I lost my limnology text in the Chicago Fire, but I think the reason that people recognize Caddo as a natural lake is that men did not have any part in its making. The log jam was caused by nature, and the Corp of Engineers broke through it in the late 1800s, as you probably know. The remaining surface water still meets every definition of "lake", of course. Call me a non-scientific rockhead, but don't take the natural away from my lake, please.

Paul Burrough
Paul Burrough

Again with the brave talk.  No, I don't have rocks for brains, "Willie".  Try to be a respectful human being and address me as if we were face to face, okay? Since you and your anonymous buddy jumped to a WHOLE BUNCHA conclusions about what I said, i'll break my own rule and clear it up for you timid ones.

Yes, I am opposed to the way "we" use water.  That's my personal opinion. I do think it's ridiculous to send 3-5 gallons of drinking water down a toilet every time we take a leak or make a J.  I do think it's ridiculous to send 50-100 gallons of drinking water down a storm drain every time we wash our car.  I do think it's ridiculous to water a lawn with drinking water 3+ times a week in 100 degree heat.  Call me whatever you want, but what has become propriety in terms of "civilized" water usage IS a little ridiculous, and that's hard to disagree with.

Do I think people will change?  Not a chance.  Do I advocate for change?  Not a chance.  I've made personal adjustments...because that's really all one person can do.  Luxuries have become "rights" and there's no reversing that on a civic scale.

Guesty McG
Guesty McG

Yet another asinine statement by someone who reaps the benefits of 6.5 million people living in DFW while bitching about the water management techniques required to support the population.

Dude, if you are so opposed to the way we use water, move to Europe or South Asia or wherever folks are more "enlightened".

And let's head off the potential "I don't live in Dallas" retort by stating that wherever you live, the infrastructure necessary for you to be able to post your silly shit is overwhelmingly dependent on non-natural phenomena.

Paul Burrough
Paul Burrough

Talk to me like you would in person and I'll give you a perfectly rational response.

G_David
G_David

Having read his post, I don't see a reason why he wouldn't say any of that in person. 

Guesty McG
Guesty McG

Jim, I wonder if your tone on this might be slightly different if you lived in a city that, under take or pay rules, might have to pay for twice the water it will be allowed to pump and then have to pass the cost directly to its citizens.

You've been spouting sanctimonious bullshit regarding "the suburbs north of Dallas" since you worked for the Times Herald.  There's no question that the NTMWD is a collection of world-class fuckups, but your credibility regarding anything associated with Collin County is just about zero.

And, BTW, it's not just Collin County you're wanting to screw over here.  Rockwall, Forney, Garland, Mesquite, and Richardson also get water from Lake Lavon.

Willie
Willie

Too f-ing bad for NTMWD and their customer cities.  They need to open their eyes and deal with reality, period.  And that reality is costlier water and less of it.

Honeybee
Honeybee

What does Collin County want us to do?

Spread the zebra mussel?

Because that's the choice.  There is no other choice.  The suburban counties will take a hit or water all over Texas will get contaminated.

Look at it this way:  the money we in Dallas county have had to spend on private schools will still far exceed what suburbanites have to pay for water.

Guesty McG
Guesty McG

We've known, without question, for at least three years that this problem was coming.  What the NTMWD should have done is start building a pipeline to Texoma in 2009, but the board members appear to be sharing a single brain cell.  Quasi-governmental organizations seem to breed stupidity and certainly breed self-dealing (see the NTTA).

What I'm really objecting to here is Schutze's unabashed schadenfreude anytime something negatively affects the suburbs.

EastDallasResident
EastDallasResident

Guesty McG - why not stop commenting about the suburbs - which is off topic and stick to the zebra mussell topic?  or maybe just go take a nap . . .

RTGolden
RTGolden

Looks to me like you're comparing apples to .... zebra mussels.  there is no correlation to suburban water supply problems and Dallas educational woes.  If enough Dallas parents did something to effectively change the DISD, instead of fleeing for private schools, perhaps they wouldn't have to pay those private school tuition costs.

I actually live in a NTWSD suburb, Balch Springs.  Give me water restrictions up the yin yang before you start pumping zebra mussels into Lake Lavon.

JimS
JimS

No, footholds are what zebra mussels get, and then they destroy the suburbs. By the way, I do not suffer from schadenfreude. I have my own syndrome, which is called schutzenfreude. People suffering from schutzenfreude experience pleasure whenever suburbanites feel pain. We can't help ourselves. We were born this way. I should get a disability pension.

Fred
Fred

There are good schools in DISD. Some are good in spite of the administration and a few are good because of it - however, I have to say it's improving overall.  If you do your homework and support the good schools, things will happen. See TDMN editorial Monday about 'footholds'.

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