Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ecosystem Faces Unlikely Foe in Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ecosystem Faces Unlikely Foe in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

In the more than 20 years Dan Robinson has worked in the golf course business, he never imagined he would ever have to fight a mussel infestation.

"When I first came to Heritage Hills, I noticed some shells around the edges of the irrigation pond, but I didn't think anything of it," said Robinson, the golf course superintendent of the Heritage Hills Golf Course in Claremore. "I knew that we had some in the lakes on this side of the state, but no one ever put two and two together.

"We really didn't know what we were going to do, that's for sure," he said.

The golf course is one of the latest Oklahoma businesses or public facilities to face the inexorable invasion of the zebra mussel.

In Robinson's case, the small bivalve mollusk Dreissena polymorpha clogged up the golf course's sprinkler system, keeping nozzles from popping up or down.

Jim Burroughs, the state Department of Wildlife Conservation's east-central region fisheries supervisor, said the mussels probably got into the golf course's water system by way of Oologah Lake, a major war front in the department's attempt to keep the animal under control. Similar problems are being encountered by the Muskogee Port Authority and regional utilities plants, he said.

Zebra mussels, named for their distinctive white-and-black stripes, are not native to Oklahoma or even the continent. They are believed to have first appeared in North America in 1988 in Lake Huron and Lake Erie, transported in the ballast water of a European freighter and discharged into the Great Lakes water system. Since then they have spread to waterways including the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, and Colorado rivers, through their tributaries and into other lakes.

Wildlife experts believe the animal reached Oklahoma about 1993 by way of the Arkansas River. They spread to Oologah Lake and by 2005, reached Kaw Lake. Adult mollusks were confirmed downstream in Keystone Lake in late 2005.

On first appearance, the mussels would seem innocuous enough - they're about the size of a fingernail, two inches long at most - and they filter pollution out of the water and leave it cleaner. But they also consume microscopic plants and animals on which other species feed. …

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