State and local officials are working to slow the spread of zebra mussels in Becker County after discovering a colony in Lake Melissa, near Detroit Lakes.
"We're gonna beef up our inspection presence at the accesses," said Barry Stratton, ecological and water resources district manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The agency also plans to increase training and education in west central Minnesota.
The DNR on Friday confirmed the zebra mussel discovery in Lake Melissa. Crews searched nearby Lake Sallie, upstream from Melissa, as well as Mill Pond downstream, but didn't find zebra mussels, the agency added. Both lakes are connected to Lake Melissa via the Pelican River.
All waters downstream of Mill Pond are already designated as infested.
More than 175 Minnesota lakes and rivers are now infested with zebra mussels, an invasive species that can push out native mussels. They can also cause more algae and weed growth — they filter the lake water, allowing sunlight to penetrate more deeply.
They attach to boats, making it easy for them to travel and contaminate other waters.
Stratton said he hopes to get volunteers to help out on local accesses in Becker County. He acknowledged the growing number of infested Minnesota lakes is straining resources.
"We have a hard time filling all of our positions and I know some of the counties that we work with are also having a hard time finding qualified individuals to serve as inspectors," he said.
Gov. Mark Dayton recently signed legislation to distribute $10 million a year to local governments to fight the mussels and other aquatic invasive species.
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