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BOATERS GET WARNINGS ON ZEBRA MUSSEL

Posters and brochures warning against the spread of zebra mussels will be mailed to every registered boater and marina in the state, legislators announced Thursday.

It is the first step in a five-part program unveiled by Republicans who comprise the Senate Majority Task Force on zebra mussels.

"We must begin immediately on a course of public education and strong support of research in this area," said Sen. John Sheffer, R-Williamsville, chairman of the task force.

The black-and-white striped mollusk has spread rapidly through Lake Erie and into the Erie Canal and St. Lawrence River.

"They have already done considerable damage by clogging water supply intake pipes in the region as well as threatening fresh-waster food chains and reducing fish populations," Sheffer said. Damage estimates for the Great Lakes region range up to $5 billion over the next 10 years.

Boaters must be sure to scrape the mussels off boat hulls and drain water out of boats before boats travel out of infested waters and into other lakes and rivers, according to the task force.

Smaller and more difficult to detect, the eggs of zebra mussels are also a problem, said Sen. John McHugh, R-Watertown, another member of the task force.

"A recreational boater has to recognize that he or she can't simply do a visual inspection of the hull, not see any mature zebra mussels and assume that the boat is not contaminated," McHugh said.

At a news conference Thursday, the task force said it is recommending:

$250,000 in state funds for research projects the next five years.

a $40 million enforcement, research and monitoring program proposed by U.S. Rep. Henry Nowak, D-Buffalo, including $50,000 a year in matching funds for any state research program.

public meetings such as the one scheduled for 6:30 p.m. July 10 at McEwen Hall at Fredonia State College.

a report, to be completed later this summer, detailing the history of the problem and methods used in Europe to deal with zebra mussels.

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