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Five years since mussel infestation, Pelican Lake doing OK

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Five years since mussel infestation, Pelican Lake doing OK
Fargo ND 101 5th Street North 58102

PELICAN RAPIDS, Minn. – Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County has had zebra mussels for five years now, and a resident there had this to say about the recent discovery of the aquatic invasive species in Becker County’s Lake Melissa: It gets better.

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“It’s not something you want, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t appear to be the end of the world,” said Dave Majkrzak, who is active in the Pelican Lake Property Owners Association.

“What we have seen on our lake is a flurry, or peaking, within a year or two (of the discovery of zebra mussels), and the population then dropped off to a point where most people don’t think about it anymore,” he said. “People here are over their shock and awe.”

Majkrzak says he lives on one of the worst-infested areas of Big Pelican, where the Little Pelican flows in, and it’s not that bad. He has been putting down milk jugs to test for aggressive breeding of zebra mussels.

His research shows that the population has dropped by a quarter to a third, he said.

“While it’s something you don’t want to have, like mosquitoes or other pests, a neighbor of mine says it’s not even on his top 10 list anymore of things to worry about on the lake,” Majkrzak said.

“We are concerned about the long-term effects on the fish population.”

But not all infested lakes are affected the same way. For whatever reason, Little Pelican Lake doesn’t seem to support any adult zebra mussels, even though it has been exposed to the invasive species as long as has Big Pelican Lake, he said.

Pumpkinseeds, a small variety of sunfish, are believed to eat zebra mussels, which could explain the absence of adult zebra mussels in Little Pelican, he said.

In Big Pelican, the biggest area of concern for swimmers is in deeper water, where swimmers may want to wear aqua shoes because of pockets where adult zebra mussels survive the winter. They don’t generally survive the winter in shallow water, Majkrzak said.

The Castaway Club on Pelican Lake generally has 3,500 kids per year attend its camps, and in a typical year, Majkrzak said, fewer than half a dozen cut their feet on something in the water.

“So while water shoes are a good idea when you don’t know what’s in the water, this is not an everyday occurrence,” he said.

Property values on Pelican Lake have stabilized after falling a bit, Majkrzak said. “It has not helped property values,” he added.

But property values appear to be on their way up on Pelican Lake, according to Otter Tail County Assessor Doug Walvatne.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue requires counties to assess property between 90 and 105 percent of sales value of comparable property.

Last fiscal year, 25 properties were sold on Pelican Lake, with a median sales ratio of 95 percent. That means sellers were getting a good price.

In the first nine months of this fiscal year, 10 properties have been sold, with a median sales ratio of about 88 percent.

That means property on Big Pelican Lake is selling for “more than the current value we’ve established on the lake,” Walvatne said.

Many fears about zebra mussels damaging boat motors and hulls, and clogging irrigation pipes, have not come to pass on Big Pelican, in large part because boats are kept on lifts, and docks and lifts are removed every autumn.

Only a few minor problems have been reported with zebra mussels building up in pipes, he said.

“We are fortunate to have a long freeze cycle (in Minnesota),” he said.

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