The zebra mussel, a dreaded invasive species that severely degrades public waters, has been confirmed in a southwest Omaha lake.
A 13-year-old boy recently found the mollusk on a beer can at Zorinsky Lake, Karie Decker, invasive species project coordinator for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said Monday morning.
It's the first time a zebra mussel has been found in a publicly accessible lake in Nebraska, she said. They are present in the Missouri River and were eradicated a couple of years ago from Offutt Lake, open only to personnel at Offutt Air Force Base.
Iowa, Colorado and Kansas all have infestations, so officials anticipated invasive mussels would eventually turn up in Nebraska.
The mollusks, which produce larvae that can't be seen by the naked eye, hitch rides on boats, live wells or bilge water. It's crucial that boat owners learn how to properly remove mussels before launching in an uninfected lake.
Removal techniques include washing the boat with hot water or allowing the craft to completely dry out for a minimum of five days. For more information, go to http://snr.unl.edu/invasives.
The mussels compete with young fish for plankton, which can cause fish populations to collapse. Their filter feeding also clarifies water, allowing light to penetrate deeper into water and encourage dense mats of vegetation to grow.
The mussels also clog culverts and water intake values. Their sharp shells also can ruin swimming beaches.