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Associated Press, Published September 07 2013

Invasive zebra mussels found in Lake Hiawatha

MINNEAPOLIS — Zebra mussels have now been found in Lake Hiawatha, and while the invasive mollusks may not thrive in the lake they're now closer to the neighboring Minneapolis Chain of Lakes.

Waterways that flow through Lake Hiawatha were already infested, so officials knew it was only a matter of time before zebra mussels were found in Hiawatha as well, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

"We knew they were coming," said Deb Pilger, a director with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Zebra mussels have infested over 100 Minnesota lakes, wetlands and streams, from Lake Superior and Lake Mille Lacs to Prior Lake and the St. Croix River, the state Department of Natural Resources said. Lake Hiawatha is one of more than 20 infested waters in the seven-county metro area.

Pilger said the mollusks aren't likely to thrive in Lake Hiawatha because of its nutrients and plant life. Only one of its 53 acres is considered suitable for the zebra mussels to do well, she said.

"I think we'll find more next year," she said. "But I don't think 2014 will be a year when people say, 'I don't want to be on that beach.' That'll take some time."

Even so, the Aug. 28 discovery of the small mussels means the species is near the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes including Lake Nokomis, a close neighbor of Lake Hiawatha. The DNR had preemptively declared Lake Nokomis infested in 2011 and managed it accordingly, even though no zebra mussels have been found there.

Zebra mussels spread quickly and can affect water quality. They're also a nuisance for swimmers, as their sharp shells can cut a person's feet. The mollusks can also damaging masses on buoys, dock supports, boats and other underwater structures, including water intakes.

One way they spread is by hitchhiking on boats and other equipment. Last year the Minneapolis park board increased inspections of motorboats on city lakes to try to reduce the possibility that boaters might inadvertently help the mussels spread.

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