Written by David Vogel Tuesday, 06 July 2010 18:23
Sometimes I take a long, hard, scrutinizing look at myself in the mirror, analyzing my morals and beliefs and convictions and priorities. Then the thought suddenly occurs to me: “Whoa! When did THAT pimple get there?”
So then I take several minutes to pick, squeeze and apply about three different brands of topical acne medication to the offending bump.
Other times, while reflecting (pun intended) on my personal values, I realize that I take up valuable newspaper space writing about inane topics such as restroom politics and Minnesotan accents when I could be making a difference in my community by bringing about relevant information that is at the very heart of our economy, faith and country.
This is just such a time.
Now that we are in the middle of summer (and done blowing stuff up until next year), I feel it is an appropriate time to discuss a very important topic. With all this heat, no doubt some of you are planning multiple trips to Marion Reservoir. But you may unknowingly be swimming right into danger.
I’m talking about the zebra mussels.
Perhaps some of you will remember when our local media went into a tizzy over the discovery of the black-and-white-striped, dime-sized crustaceans that had recently been found in the reservoir.
That was two summers ago. Since then, the zebra mussel news has remained eerily dormant.
Having passed at least one journalism class at Tabor College, I felt it was my bounden duty to get to the bottom of this. Somebody had to clear up this zebra mussel mess.
So I put on my journalism hat and dove in.
My first plan of action was to contact Natural Resource Specialist Neal Whitaker, a park ranger at the reservoir, whose governmental work, he said, is so highly classified that even he is not permitted to know what he is doing.
Neal has become—much to his chagrin, I’m sure—my official contact for all nature-related investigations. I first talked to him three years ago during my self-presented award-winning investigation on the blue-green algae explosion that was taking place at Marion Reservoir.
I am pleased to report that since I wrote that column, not only has the water cleared up, but I have, in fact, graduated from high school.
To test his security authenticity, I asked Neal a very distinctive personal question that would undoubtedly identify him: What did you have for lunch today?
“Same as always,” he said. “Coffee and Rolaids.”
I had the right guy.
“Zebra mussels,” Neal said, “are filthy invaders from Europe bent upon wreaking havoc in American waterways.”
To be less dramatic, the zebra mussels are native to lakes in southeast Russia, but have accidentally been introduced into many other countries. They are invasive, which means that when they get into a body of water, they cling onto any surface and multiply uncontrollably, using up the valuable resources that other organisms need.
To be dramatic again, they are the fingernail-sized bivalve crustacean rabbits of valuable freshwater resources.
Also, the shells are particularly sharp, which means no more bare-footed swimming for us.
Neal said that the zebra mussels can colonize to the point where the mass of shells becomes immoveable.
A simple Google Images search for “zebra mussels” will result in photographs of beaches, peers, other shelled organisms and shopping carts (I’m not kidding) covered by thick coats of zebra mussels.
In fact, in 1992 columnist Dave Barry pontificated on a newspaper article headlined, “Large colony of zebra mussels found clinging to big brassiere.”
Simply put: We are going to have a lot of zebra mussels sitting around.
I asked Neal if there was any sort of commercial or economic value that our county could gain from harvesting these soon-to-be mass quantities of zebra mussels. After all, it would seem shellfish (rim shot) for the reservoir to hog all the zebra mussels.
Here I was imagining something along the lines of our local restaurants beginning to offer miniature appetizers.
Neal seemed to doubt this possibility, but had a few ideas of his own to offer:
“World’s smallest pearls? World’s smallest portions of oysters on the half-shell? Custom encrustation?”
But this is all trivial.
What really bothers me is why—knowing how destructive these zebra mussels can be—reservoir officials and the local presses have clammed up on the subject for two years now. I have a feeling we’re all in for a little shell-shock if something isn’t done.
So stay tuned, because in my next column I will continue my investigation by traveling, at my own personal risk of multiple Pulitzer Prize nominations, to the Marion Reservoir to see just what exactly is going on.
But first, I’m going to take care of this zit.