Forum Held on Zebra Mussels in Housatonic
By Lucas Willard
Pittsfield – This is the sound of the Housatonic River in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. In 2009, the River, which flows through Massachusetts and Connecticut, was discovered to contain zebra mussels. Zebra mussels are an invasive, aquatic shellfish originally from Eurasia that were first discovered in the Great Lakes in the early 80s. In the past 30 years, they've spread to 30 states, including being very well established in NY's Hudson River and Champlain watersheds.
In Massachusetts, zebra mussels were first discovered in Laurel Lake, in the Berkshire town of Lee in 2009. Shortly thereafter, the State formed its own Zebra Mussel Taskforce to educate the public on the invasive species, and to determine ways to prevent the spread of the animal. In 2010, the State's Lakes and Ponds program began encouraging boaters and fishermen to Clean, Drain, and Dry their equipment to kill the larvae of the tiny aquatic hitchhikers.
Later that year, zebra mussels were found further South in the Housatonic River in Connecticut, and just this past fall, at the extreme southern end of the watershed.
Ethan Nedeau is the owner of Biodrawversity - an organization that was contracted by Connecticut and Massachusetts to research the invaders.
Nedeau recently spoke at a forum on zebra mussels hosted by the Housatonic Valley Assocation at Simon's Rock. The forum brought together experts, the public, and government officials from both states to educate and address concerns.
Dennis Regan from the Housatonic Valley Association
The forum discussed the dangers that the invasive organism poses to both the environment and man-made structures. Zebra mussels feed by filtering water, and growing unchecked, can over-filter water which can lead to a whole new host of problems, including competing for food with native species, and altering water ph and sunlight levels. Additionally, there are 4 hydroelectric dams along the Housatonic in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Zebra mussels are the only shellfish in the river that collects on hard surfaces and could damage hydroelectric equipment.
In addition to hard surfaces, zebra mussels need slow moving water, higher ph, and water rich in calcium. Nedeau said that Berkshire County is the only area in Massachusetts where the mussels have been found, and that's due to the area's unique geology.
In the Berkshires, areas at risk for invasion include Pontoosuc Lake and the Stockbridge Bowl. Nedeau said it's undetermined if the mussels from the upper Housatonic in fact moved to the lower parts of the watershed, or if they were brought in by separate means.
Dennis Regan said that the Zebra Mussel Forum was a further step in educating the public.
Massachusetts DCR's CLEAN, DRY, DRAIN pamphlet:
Massachusetts' zebra mussel response plan:
Housatonic Valley Association:
Zebra mussels in Connecticut: