Paul Lepisto, the League’s Regional Conservation Coordinator for the Missouri River, is part of the team coordinating a multi-agency response to invasive species in the Missouri River.
A reproducing population of zebra mussels was confirmed last summer in Lewis and Clark Lake, located on the South Dakota-Nebraska border just above Gavins Point Dam. Federal and state agencies and local organizations will be working together to educate people who live and recreate on the Missouri River about invasive species and how to specifically prevent the spread of zebra mussels.
An aquatic invasive species is any non-native organism that poses a significant threat to our water resources, supplies, or infrastructure. Invasive species can cause severe damage to habitat and native species because they have no natural predators. They can also have a negative effect on outdoor recreational opportunities. In the Great Lakes, for example, the economic cost of aquatic invasive species could be as high as $800 million per year.
League staff is helping to organize and coordinate an outreach and communication effort between federal and state agencies and the public. Engaging the public is critical to prevent the spread of zebra mussels to other areas of the Missouri River. The first major outreach event will be a public meeting in Yankton, South Dakota, in June 2016. The meeting will feature speakers from areas of the country currently dealing with damaging zebra mussel populations. The speakers will share information about how zebra mussels have impacted water users in their areas.
The League will continue to coordinate the annual Missouri River Clean Boat Event, which teaches boaters and anglers about aquatic invasive species and how to keep from spreading these invaders to new waters.