MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Disappointing news on Christmas Lake in Shorewood, Minn., won’t stop efforts to stop the spread of zebra mussels.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources confirmed the presence of the destructive mussels on Monday. The invasive aquatic species was discovered at the public boat launch.

For much of his lifetime, Allen Peterson has both recreated and lived on the lake.

“The water clarity is so beautiful and the good fishing and a lot of other things that go along with it,” Peterson said.

He says the discovery of zebra mussels is a setback, but not the end in the long-running battle.

“Our lakes in Minnesota – they belong to everybody, and that’s the way we treat Christmas Lake, too,” Peterson said. “It’s not our lake, it’s everybody’s lake.”

For the past several years, a fierce battle has been waged against the spread of zebra mussels. The lake’s homeowners association, the city of Shorewood and the DNR have invested thousands of dollars on boat inspections and decontamination stations. And they’ve even constructing mechanized gates at the boat landing to help keep the aquatic invader out.

Craig Dawson is Lake Minnetonka Watershed District’s point man on aquatic invasive species.

“Everybody was disappointed that it happened because we’d made such a great effort over the last few years to have a very thorough watercraft inspection program,” Dawson said. “We don’t know how they were introduced there.”

Juvenile zebra mussels were discovered at the lake’s public access landing, and not the hard-shelled adults that are often seen covering rocks and dock posts.

Dawson says the good news is that it appears they are this season’s offspring, and they’re incapable of reproducing. The newly found zebra mussels are so tiny, they’re barely visible while on a rock.

“If we don’t do anything, they’re going to be there,” Dawson said.

Since the discovery, the city and the DNR has closed the public boat access to allow for an emergency response. Workers have now curtained off the area about 50 feet from shore to contain the zebra mussels ahead of chemical treatment.

They’ll use a newly-approved product called Zequinox.

“They ingest dead bacteria that naturally occur, and it blows apart their digestive systems,” he said.

It’s no guarantee, but it’s a shot both leaders and lake users say is worth taking.

“We can do something and they may still be there, but at least we gave it the best shot that anybody has ever been able to do,” says Dawson.

Treatments with the recently-approved Zequinox will likely take place in about a week. The area will also be dredged before a previously-planned rebuilding of the boat ramp.

Bill Hudson

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