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DEEP Responds to Reader's Letter on Zebra Mussels

Natural Resources Bureau Chief answers questions about state's response to invasive species in Candlewood Lake.

[In response to a letter recently published at Patch.com, Bill Hyatt of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection provided the following summary on the Department’s efforts to combat invasive species – including zebra mussels.  Mr. Hyatt is the Bureau chief for Natural Resources at the Department.]

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has consistently and frequently communicated — with Jim McAlister, as well as other concerned citizens and organizations — its concern for the threat that invasive species — including zebra mussels — pose to the lands and waters of Connecticut.  We understand that the impacts to lakes and ponds from invasive species can be extensive and often includes degradation of habitat, loss of rare species, choking of waterways and industrial water intakes, and loss of recreational opportunities. 

As a result, the Department has acted proactively to address the many statewide threats posed by the introduction of unwanted plants and animals.  Statewide actions taken by the Department include developing an Aquatic Nuisance Species Management plan in 2006, aggressive outreach and education to prevent further introductions, strict fish importation rules, efforts to eradicate hydrilla, ongoing control of water chestnut, education and inspections at state boat ramps, removal of mile-a-minute vine, and extensive efforts to slow the spread of Asian Longhorned and Emerald Ash borer beetles.

Regarding Candlewood Lake, the Department has been an active participant on the Zebra Mussel Task Force since its inception in 2010.   We are working with the Candlewood Lake Authority and other local partners to identify and implement the most practical and cost effective measures for addressing both zebra mussel concerns and milfoil problems.  This effort includes looking at both emerging technologies and established practices.  At the same time, we have put practical and effective new measures in place to inspect boats and educate boaters at state launches and established a self-certification process for tournament fishing boats.

Zebra mussels pose a particularly difficult challenge in that they are established in Laurel Lake, Mass., which feeds directly into the Housatonic River.  At the time of their discovery in Laurel Lake in 2009 the mussels were already present in portions of the mainstem Housatonic River in Massachusetts.  To date, the only successful eradication of zebra mussels from the wild was done in a 12 acre quarry in Virginia in 2006.  Obviously controlling or eliminating this prolific species from the Housatonic River drainage is a challenge of much greater scale.  However, we continue to work with the Candlewood Lake Authority and others to aggressively explore emerging technologies such as bacterial toxicants, CO2 and ultraviolet light treatments.  All along we have been in regular communication with the Candlewood Lake Authority and, more recently, with Mr. McAlister and other interested individuals. 

And there is reason for optimism.  When zebra mussels were first discovered in Connecticut’s Twin Lakes back in 1998 the agency immediately undertook an aggressive outreach and education effort to make anglers and boaters aware of the problem and what they needed to do to avoid becoming unwitting vectors.  In the 14 years that have followed, none of the nearby lakes with boat launch areas have become infested despite having highly suitable water chemistry and habitat.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has a long-history of taking action to combat invasive species, not just in Candlewood Lake but throughout Connecticut.  We remain committed to working with the Candlewood Lake Authority and other local partners to identify and implement practical and environmentally sound solutions to invasive species problems.

Steven DeVaux December 07, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Hope is not a stratgey. Any single mistake leads to an infestation and breech. Nothing with mankind involved is perfect. A child could take their sand pail and shovel and accidently transplant the zebra muscle offspring to small to see with the naked human eye. A fishing rod's lines could harbor transplants. Therein lies the problem. To stop it, you have to abandon any use of it. Otherwise you'll only slow down the inevitable by a matter of time.

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