Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has signed a bill that would protect lakes and ponds across the Commonwealth from the spread of invasive zebra mussels. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…
The zebra mussel was first confirmed in the Berkshires in 2009, in Laurel Lake in Lee. Since then the Commonwealth has formed a Zebra Mussel Task Force, the Department of Conservation and Recreation has published and distributed signage and information, and local cities and towns have done their part. But this week Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation that would strengthen the state’s ability to enforce protections against the spread of the invasive animal.
Ed Lambert is Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The new law will allow the DCR to establish an aquatic nuisance control program, and will also make it illegal for contaminated boats to launch in Massachusetts without first being decontaminated. Zebra mussels can spread easily by hitching a ride in boats.
The bill was proposed by Senator Benjamin Downing of Pittsfield.
Downing took recommendations from the state’s Zebra Mussel Task Force in crafting the legislation. Jim McGrath, part of that original task force, and harbor master for the city of Pittsfield, said that the city took its own steps to watch for the mussels at its bodies of water open to boat traffic.
The mussels which have no natural predators are filter feeders, and can deplete an ecosystem of vital nutrients. They also can clog underwater pipes and are their sharp shells are unwelcome on shorelines.
Also involved with advocating for the bill was the Lakes and Ponds Association of Western Mass. Jim Phillips is Lake Steward for the organization, and said that the legislation is important because…
Since their discovery in 2009, the mussels have been confined to Laurel Lake. Although also discovered further down the Housatonic River in Connecticut, Phillips says the mussels favor an ecosystem with a higher pH and more calcium, which is more commonly found in the Western Berkshires than other parts of the state.
Zebra mussels are a common nuisance in the great lakes region, as well as New York waterways including Lake Champlain.
The law will take effect this spring.