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Plans Canceled To Out-Muscle The Zebra Mussels In Local Lakes



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Despite planning, money, material, manpower, and resources all in place, an effort to conduct experiments to reduce the invasive zebra mussel population in local lakes has stalled at the last moment.Mussels In Newtown

On the brink of a Collaborative Zebra Mussel Research effort that would be currently taking place, if not for what Candlewood Lake Authority Executive Director Larry Marsicano called a "bureaucratic problem" that remains unresolved between a federal and state agency, "groundbreaking local research aimed to help prevent the spread of zebra mussels from one water body to another," is not moving forward at this time. Both the Lake Zoar Authority and Friends Of Lake Lillinonah were involved with this work.

Mr Marsicano has been involved with project planning for the last several years, and expressed his disappointment last week. He had expected to be on site July 27 in Massachusetts near Laurel Lake, where the experiment was taking place. Laurel Lake flows into the Housatonic River.

What was about to happen? The Candlewood Lake Authority had partnered with Dr Kevin Kelly from the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation, Western Connecticut State University (WCSU), and Praxair, headquartered in Danbury, to study the potential of using carbon dioxide, diffused into the water, to kill zebra mussel veligers (larvae) as they exit a body of water through a stream, pipe, or other chokepoint.

"The experiment is on hold, but we have some other options; but I don't think it's going to happen. There is also a timing issue, we have to do it when there is a steady flow of veligers," which lasts through August, Dr Kelly said. "This is so much out of left field. I was not expecting a federal and state agency not to agree on something like that. There must be a way of doing it, but we still need to figure it out."

Remaining hopeful that a resolution will arise, Mr Marsicano said, "But good things come to those who wait." He and others have been working on the state, federal, and local partnership to introduce carbon dioxide into the lake where zebra mussel larvae spawn and flow toward Connecticut.

"So many pieces were coming into place in the past several years, and there is just one more piece," Mr Marsicano said.

He and others intended to set up a temporary situation on Laurel Lake to see how much Co2 was needed to kill veligers.

"That was what we were going to try to understand. We wanted to see if we could stop" live veligers from getting into the local water.

He will "pursue other avenues and try to reschedule," the experiment. "We had very willing partners, from Praxair to property owners. All the pieces were there," he said. "The only thing we needed was a project management plan/agreement."

He said the plan between the Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency, and the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection contained "indemnification language that could not be resolved."

He said, "We'll continue to work on this; we need it to get done." The research "is too important and could have potential value on the Housatonic. I have worked hard to pull players together on this." The state was going to pay for Dr Kelly and the research. Praxair gave more than $12,500 in product and instrumentation, and also $10,000 in expertise, "which we were able to match through state programs plus contributions from groups including Lake Zoar Authority and Friends of Lake Lillinonah," Mr Marsicano said.

Lake Zoar Authority member Gary Fillion found something at his lakeside house off Underhill Road that did not belong in the water:  invasive zebra mussels that have made a home in Newtown in past years. Two summers ago, Mr Fillion walked down to his dock and when he removed a folding ladder, he said, "the underside of all the rungs were covered with the mussels, and the paddleboat, too. It took "two men and a boy," to haul it out of the water. "The bottom was inundated with the mussels," he said.

Last summer, however, he found none. He does not believe the mussels have gone away, but have just temporarily decreased in population, he said.

"They go through a peak and valley of population. That's their lifecycle. We had a population explosion two summers ago, and last summer it dropped … that's what they do is overpopulate, then the number drops, then goes up."

"But they are there," in Lakes Zoar and Lillinonah, he said. "It interferes with the ecosystem of the lake and does mechanical damage." The mussels get into boat engines and other mechanical equipment, he said.

Lake residents and boat owners can scrape the clustered mussels off their property each fall, "but the fact remains that they're in Lake Zoar, where they should not be. They're going to be here, it's a matter of us curtailing this," said Mr Fillion.

"Don't move a mussel," warns the Candlewood Lake Authority (CLA) website, cautioning lake users to not spread the invasive zebra mussel species. It has infested local lakes including Zoar and Lillinonah in Newtown in past years, but has not yet found its way to neighboring Candlewood Lake.

A recent release from the CLA has asked residents "to do their part in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species." Check watercrafts, trailers, and equipment each time they come out of the water. The candlwoodlakeauthority.org offers extensive information about the mussels, why they are a problem, and how you can inspect your property. The site states: clean all visible plant, fish, and animal, as well as mud or other debris from your trailer, tow vehicle, and boat before leav­ing any lake's boat launch. Drain all water from every space and item that may hold water, including bilges, ballast tanks, live wells, engine cooling systems, etc, away from any waterway prior to transporting, and dry all equipment for at least one week (hot/dry weather) and four weeks (cool/wet weather) before entering a water body.

"Before Leaving & Before Launching... Inspect Everything," the site warns.

Mussels can be seen clinging to rocks by the boat ramp on Lake Lillinonah in the fall of 2015. (photo courtesy Candlewood Lake Authority)
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