In July of 2020 Zebra Mussels were discovered in Long Lake at its South Access, located off MN Highway 87.
Several times each summer, Long Lake Area Association (LLAA) volunteers conduct visual inspections via “rake tosses” in areas with high boat traffic and high transient boat access. In addition, there are sessions each summer to train additional volunteers in how to conduct visual inspections. During one of these training sessions, Zebra Mussels were discovered near the South Access. The discovery was subsequently confirmed by Nicole Kovar, MN DNR AIS Specialist for our area, who, with a colleague, physically located additional Zebra Mussels while SCUBA diving near the South Access.
The LLAA, Hubbard County Environmental Services and the DNR then began the process of creating heightened awareness at all frequently used public accesses on Long Lake. Once a lake has an infestation of Zebra Mussels, completely eradicating the infestation is nearly impossible. Each Zebra Mussel creates millions of microscopic offspring during its lifecycle, many of which can be killed using certain poisonous chemicals, a process extremely toxic to other life in the lake. The analogy would be burning down your house to get rid of mice.
The rate of Zebra Mussel infestation can be controlled at best. Control is achieved best by not adding to the existing Zebra Mussel population through voluntary and guided AIS inspection at accesses. LLAA and its sister Long Lake Foundation are working hard to increase AIS inspector presence at accesses for the summer of 2021, but it’s expensive.
In August, DNR AIS Specialist Nicole Kovar and I conducted additional SCUBA dives to determine whether Zebra Mussels had established themselves farther out into the lake from the South Access. We were assisted by lake resident Sharon Natzel, AIS Prevention Coordinator. As Nicole and I dove for inspection, Sharon monitored our progress and checked nearby shore areas for evidence of Zebra Mussels. For experienced SCUBA divers, the term “dive” would be an overstatement. The deepest we dove was about nine feet. SCUBA diving instead of snorkeling enabled us to closely examine structure without having to repeatedly surface for a breath of air. We dove several areas northeast of the south access in stump fields and in shallow areas of sand and rocks that extend out into the lake. The good news is that we did not find any evidence of mature Zebra Mussels attached to structure in the lake. While this is great news, we know that Zebra Mussels exist in the lake.
Zebra Mussels live attached to hard surfaces and underwater structures. Zebra Mussels have no real natural predators in our MN lakes. Relative to the native mussels they compete with, the Zebra Mussels reproduce on an order of magnitude that overwhelms native mussels competing for the same food supply.
In some ways our lake’s Zebra Mussel infestation is a metaphor for the Corona Virus we have all been dealing with for the last 9 months. Zebra Mussels reach maturity in one year and have millions of offspring. Native mussels have thousands of offspring and mature in 10 years. While Zebra Mussels start slowly, their growth over several years is exponential as millions of offspring mature, have millions more who mature, and have millions more. Like our Corona Virus that was first detected in Washington State, within 9 months infected even the farthest reaches of the country.
The analogy stops there. There isn't a "vaccine" for Zebra Mussels. The University of Minnesota's AIS Research Center is conducting research on Zebra Mussels. There is a promising multi-year study on Lake Minnetonka using low-dose copper to suppress the population of Zebra Mussels in a bay that has an expected completion of Dec 2022. [https://www.maisrc.umn.edu/zebramussel-research ] We each have a personal responsibility to prevent the spread of AIS from one water body to another. We can make an appointment at the complimentary hot water decontamination station at the South Transfer Station for our boat/trailer when we plan to go to another lake and upon our return from another lake. We can educate our guests to do the same.
LLAA is focused on containing the spread of zebra mussels and faucet snails plus preventing the spread of other AIS like starry stonewort and Eurasian watermilfoil into Long Lake by increasing the AIS watercraft inspection and education at the public accesses. LLAA is working with lake service providers, tournament organizers, resorts, VRBO operators, and lake residents to CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY before putting anything in the lake.
Lake residents and users of the lake can help by DONATING to the LLAA Foundation (see article in this newsletter) to help cover the high cost of AIS inspection and by following AIS prevention guidelines. LLAA is also looking for volunteers to train to recognize AIS within the lake and/or to hang a complimentary zebra mussel settlement sampler on your dock. You do not have to be a member of the LLAA to volunteer or be trained.
Jim Seifert grew up spending every summer at his family’s home on the northeast shore of Long Lake. Now retired, Jim and his wife Jona (a Long Lake native) live on the lake in the home that has seen generations of family since 1934. Jim is the Secretary of the Long Lake Area Association and Neighborhood Six representative.