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Above: Zebra Mussel.

FAIRMONT– Many lakeshore property owners in Fairmont are removing their boats, lifts and docks from the lakes ahead of the winter. The Martin Soil and Water Conservation District says people should be looking for aquatic invasive species that could be attached to water equipment.

Dustin Benes, district technician for Martin Soil and Water Conservation District, said people should be especially on the lookout for zebra mussels or different kinds of weeds.

“There’s native vegetation and there’s invasive so it’s good to watch for that when docks and lifts are removed,” Benes said.

He said zebra mussels attach to hard surfaces so when docks, lifts and boats are in the water during the summer months, it allows them time to latch on.

He said zebra mussels are very small, about the size of a finger nail. They have a zig-zag white and black shell and are very sharp to the touch.

Benes said so far zebra mussels haven’t been detected in Fairmont’s lakes, but they want to be made aware of any potential findings so that they can act quickly.

“A concern of mine is the drinking water system. Fairmont does pull surface water from Budd Lake. If we get zebra mussels, they can plug the pipe and it will add more expenses to that system, which nobody wants,” Benes said.

Once zebra mussels get in a lake, they’re also hard to get rid of.

“There hasn’t been a case where they have been removed completely,” Benes said.

He said that zebra mussels spread fast and that they can produce more than a million eggs a year.

Benes also wants people to be mindful of taking their boat to a different lake outside of Fairmont and bringing it back.

He said that the closest infestation for zebra mussels is in the Minnesota River between Mankato and New Ulm. They’ve also been found in Okoboji and Spirit Lake, which Benes said is a concern.

“There are many people that travel to Spirit Lake and back to Martin County,” Benes pointed out.

“That’s part of the reason drain plugs must be out while transporting your boat.”

Baby zebra muscles are called villagers and Benes sad they’re free swimming in the water when they first hatch and as they get older, they attach to hard surfaces. He said they can be in the water while someone is transporting a boat and they wouldn’t know it.

Another Minnesota law he thinks many are unaware of is that if someone buys a used boat lift or dock, they’re supposed to leave it out for 21 days to let it dry so that there’s no water transferring from one lake to another.

Benes encourages anyone who thinks they’ve found zebra mussels, or any other vegetation they’re not sure about, they should contact Martin Soil and Water Conservation District.

“If we don’t know, we can contact the DNR. They have an aquatic invasive species specialist. We have a person for our area to contact,” Benes said.

He said he has also taken training on identification for zebra mussels so he’s happy to check out any potential findings.

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