Monday, September 16, 2013
Proposed law for North Texas boaters aims to curb the spread of zebra mussels
It will be voted on by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on November 7.
Boaters in North Texas may soon have a new law to obey when leaving area lakes.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission recently approved a proposal requiring all boats be drained after use in lakes throughout 17 Northeast Texas counties, including Denton, Collin and Dallas.
The proposal, which will be voted on by the commission November 7 after allowing a period of public comment, is aimed to curb the spread of zebra mussels.
Officials say zebra mussels have become a problem in the North Texas water system over the last few years because the types of damage they can cause.
At a size of a fingernail, zebra mussels can clog public water intake pipes and water cooling systems.
They can also damage boats and motors by covering boat hulls, and they can cause human injury when they reach the land because of their sharp edges. Zebra mussels also fight with baitfish for forage, which in turn can affect their game fish predators.
It is believed that the zebra mussels, which originated in Eurasia, were first discovered in Lake Texoma in 2009 but have recently been found in Lake Ray Roberts and Lewisville Lake, which are connected by the Elm Fork of the Trinity River.
"This would be a good policy because it's been documented that the spread of these zebra mussels from one watershed to another is the result of the zebra mussels being attached to boats," said Ken Parr, Flower Mound's public works director. "It was in Lake Texoma, and now it's been discovered in Lake Ray Roberts. And [boats] are how they got there because there is no connection between the Red River and the Trinity River."
Denise Hickey, public relations coordinator for the North Texas Municipal Water District, said the problem becomes costly to fix.
"Water providers have ongoing maintenance," Hickey said. "The mussels attach themselves to hard surfaces -- pumps, motors and transmission pipelines. The end users, which are the residents, are the ones who have to pay for that operation and maintenance."
The Texas Parks and Wildlife was granted additional rule-making authority with the passage of House Bill 1241 at the last legislative session. Current rules only apply to lakes where zebra mussels have already been found, such as Lavon and Lewisville. Lakes such as Grapevine and Ray Hubbard would be added to the list.
Other counties included in the proposal are Cooke, Fannin, Grayson, Hood, Jack, Kaufman, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rockwall, Stephens, Tarrant, Wise and Young.
Boaters who use public water in those counties would be required to drain its boat, regardless of its size, type or what it's used for. Live wells, bilges, motors and any other receptacles or water intake systems would need to be drained. Violating the rule would be a Class C Parks and Wildlife Code misdemeanor, which could result in a fine of $25 to $500.
Ken Kurzawski of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said live fish would not be allowed to be transported in water that comes from the water body where they were caught. Personally caught live bait could only be used in the water body where it was caught. No off-site tournament weigh-ins would be allowed if live fish are being transported off a body of water in one of the affected counties.
Also, anglers would be allowed to transport and use commercially purchased live bait in water provided they have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait, Kurzawski said. Any live bait can only be used on the water body from where it was purchased.
Movement from one access point to another on the same lake during the same day would not require drainage, Kurzawski said.
Residents can voice their opinion by emailing Kurzawski at email@example.com or by attending one of three public meetings.
The first meeting will take place October 1 at Cabela's in Fort Worth. SNAP Center in Denison will host a meeting October 8. The final meeting is October 9 at Bass Pro Shops in Garland. All meetings begin at 7 p.m.
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