Volunteer to help prevent invasive species from ruining waterways

Training for local residents interested in volunteering their time to monitor local boat launches for the presence of invasive plants and animals, such as zebra mussels, is being offered by the state.

Zebra mussels have been discovered in nearby waterways — in Lake Housatonic (which is the Housatonic River in northern Shelton) in 2011, and earlier in Lake Zoar and Lake Lillinonah in 2010 (both also are formed by dams on the Housatonic River, from Monroe/Oxford north).

These were the first new reports of zebra mussels in Connecticut since 1998, when they had been discovered in two lakes in the northwestern town of Salisbury.

Learn to work with local boaters

The training will educate volunteers on how to identify and detect invasive species, and also to instruct boaters on how to do the same. Volunteers will receive a handbook, supplies and a T-shirt that identifies them as volunteers.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) training session will be held 9:30 a.m.-noon on Saturday, June 21 at the New Hartford Town Hall, 530 Main St., New Hartford. To register for the training, contact Gwendolynn Flynn of the DEEP at 860-447-4339 or gwendolynn.flynn@ct.gov.

Mussels are spreading

The zebra mussel is a black-and-white-striped bivalve mollusk, which was introduced into North American waters through the discharge of ship ballast water. Since its discovery in Lake St. Clair in 1998, the zebra mussel has spread throughout the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River system and most of New York state, including Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.

More recently both zebra mussels and quagga mussels (a related species, and also highly invasive) have been expanding their range into a number of western and southwestern states.

Invasive plants also a problem

Like the zebra mussel, numerous invasive plants have been introduced into Connecticut waters. These invasive plants can form dense mats, making boating, fishing, swimming and other recreational activities nearly impossible.

Through education, boaters can help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive plants and animals, and volunteers can help ensure that boaters across Connecticut receive the proper information about invasive species.

What to do to stop the spread

Actions anglers and boaters must take to prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals, including zebra mussels are as follows:

Before leaving a boat launch:

— Clean all visible plant, fish, and animals as well as mud or other debris. Do not transport them home.

— Drain all water from every space and item that may hold water.

At home or prior to your next launch:

— Dry anything that comes in contact with water (boats, trailers, anchors, propellers, etc.) for a minimum of one week during hot/dry weather or a minimum of four weeks during cool/wet weather.

If drying is not possible, you must clean your boat prior to the next launch. The techniques listed below are for decontaminating your vessel:

— Wash your boat with hot, pressurized water.

— Dip equipment in 100% vinegar for 20 minutes prior to rinsing.

— Wash with a 1% salt solution (2/3 cup salt to 5 gallons water) and leave on for 24 hours prior to rinsing.

— “Wet” with bleach solution (1 ounce bleach to 1 gallon water) or soap and hot water (Lysol, boat soap, etc.) for 10 minutes prior to rinsing.

When fishing:

— Do not dump your bait bucket or release live bait. Avoid introducing unwanted plants and animals. Unless your bait was obtained on site, dispose of it in a suitable trash container or give it to another angler.

— Do not transport fish, other animals or plants between water bodies. Release caught fish, other animals and plants only into the waters from which they came.

For more information on zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species, go to the DEEP’s website at www.ct.gov/deep/invasivespecies.