Mussels visible with lower water table

As part of Marion Reservoir?s Lake Fluctuation Plan, the flood gates were opened this month to to lower the water pool by 2 feet, said Traci Robb, lead ranger, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

?There are a number of reasons for exercising this plan,? she said.

Four primary reasons for drawing down the water level include preventing overrun on shorelines, enhancing the walleye population, reducing the zebra mussels and lessening blue-green algae blooms.

Campgrounds, which are close to the shoreline, could be inundated with spring runoff water, causing the pool to rise.

Drawing down the water protects that from happening, Robb said, and it protects the riprap that is used to prevent water erosion of the shoreline.

The drawdown also helps vegetation and waterfowl, Robb said.

Another advantage, she said, is that it enhances walleye fishing.

?A lot of walleye spawn along the dam, and (the drawdown) reduces the chance of walleye getting through the dam gates.

Robb said zebra mussels will not be eradicated by the drawdown, but the drawdown will kill those in shallow water.

?By no means will the drawdown take care of these mussels, but it won?t hurt either,? she said.

Robb said the first year visible numbers of zebra mussels were evident on the shoreline was in 2008, which was when the 2008-09 lake fluctuation plan was submitted.

Prior to that plan, the last time the reservoir submitted a plan to release water was in 1987.

?We dropped the water 8 feet,? she said.

That same year, though, the county went into a major drought situation, she said, but added the drawdown was an unrelated factor.

?Marion watershed went into a five-year drought, and it wasn?t until 2008 that another plan was submitted,? Robb said.

With normal precipitation, the reservoir pool will be back to normal levels in spring, and the exposed zebra mussel shells could be swept back into the pool, keeping them off the beaches.

For now, though, the shells, which are extremely sharp, can be found laying along all the shorelines around the reservoir.

The fluctuation plan was approved earlier this year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and the Kansas Water Office.

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