After suspecting it for months, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has confirmed that zebra mussels are in Lake Cunningham. Now the lake may have to be drained in order to get rid of the invasive species.
Don Annis is meticulous in how he checks his boat after using it at Lake Cunningham. He checks the motor, the carpeting underneath, and everything in the boat that touched the water.
But despite his best efforts, adult zebra mussels, named for the stripes on their shells, have found their way to Lake Cunningham.
The invasive mussels, which can clog pipes and cause corrosion — and are capable of substantially impacting the ecosystems in which they're introduced — likely came into the water after latching on to another boat.
"We can educate 99 percent of them, but if we have one guy that doesn't care or doesn't listen — you know, it only takes one person," says Jeff Jackson, Fisheries Supervisor, Nebraska Games and Parks.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the city of Omaha now have three options for the lake: an educational push; a boat ban; or draining the lake, which was done at Lake Zorinsky in 2010.
"It's a huge inconvenience to a lot of boaters and anglers and other users of the park and that's definitely something we're considering," says Jackson.
Annis is fine with a plan to drain Cunningham Lake, he just wants it done differently than Zorinsky.
"If you're going to drain it, you gotta drain it totally. If you leave a stream of water like they did in Zorinsky, well that's only going to slow it down," says Don Annis, boater.
If you're caught transporting zebra mussels, your boat could be impounded and you could be fined $500.