Alabama's freshwater resources could be in jeopardy as a highly invasive species has been established in Holt Lake.

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The United States Army Corps of Engineers is advising the public that the zebra mussel, or Dreissena polymorpha, is considered one of the most invasive species in the world. Zebra mussels pose a danger to ecosystem function, biodiversity, and infrastructure as well:

Zebra mussels can attach themselves to solid objects, leading to dense infestations. Resultantly, they are notorious for damaging boats, clogging water intake and filtration pipes, and threatening native mussel species.

Boat engines can overheat if the mussels colonize on motors, while attachment to hulls can lead to reduced speed, lower fuel efficiency, and/or handling issues. Basic infrastructure – including that of lakeshore municipalities, power plants, and irrigation systems – has been known to suffer from zebra mussel related problems, as well. Further, the zebra mussel not only competes with native mussel species for resources and space, but can also colonize on top of native species which may result in smothering and starvation.

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Though established, reproducing, populations of zebra mussels are currently only recognized in Holt Lake, their spread potential is immense. This is especially true as large numbers of microscopic, planktonic, young can be easily transported without detection. After zebra mussels become established in a lake or reservoir they are generally there to stay, but boaters can make a huge difference by protecting new areas from invasion.

Zebra mussels have currently been established in Holt Lake and the US Army Corps of Engineers has also spotted small colonies in locations along the Black Warrior River and the Tombigbee Waterway. Preventing the spread of this invasive species is of the utmost importance this Memorial Day weekend and into the future.

US Army Corps of Engineers Natural Resource Specialist Caleb Shuler urges boaters to fully drain and clean boats after leaving the lake. Hot water is suggested and any additional equipment that's been in the lake should be cleaned with a solution of diluted bleach.

“When you are done fishing for the day make sure and pull your boat plug when you are safely out of the water. This is a good opportunity to make sure all standing water has a chance to drain. Empty minnow buckets, livewells and anything that was exposed or might be holding lake water. Please make sure your boat and trailer are completely dry and cleared of debris and vegetation before you decide to recreate on a new body of water," Shuler said.

The US Army Corps of Engineers suggests a dry quarantine of one to two weeks in an attempt to prevent the spread of zebra mussels.

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