SAN ANTONIO – A team at the San Antonio River Authority is working on a project to reintroduce native freshwater mussles to the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Walk.
River Authority biologists including Zoe Nichols are collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Inks Dam National Hatchery in Burnet to propagate freshwater mussels.
“It takes a lot of attention to detail and you have to be very careful to raise them. They are such a sensitive animal,” Nichols said.
The four species of freshwater mussles include the Pimpleback, Yellow Sandshell, Threeridge and Pistolgrip.
It could take up to a year for the mussels to reach a size where they can be placed in the river. The River Authority hopes to release hundreds of them next year.
“We’ve done a lot of previous experiments to confirm that mussels will survive in the Mission Reach. Just to ensure that even before we even started propagation. So we actually took native mussels from the lower San Antonio and we put them just in some mussel cages right on the Mission Reach and we studied them for three years and they grew and survived which kind of confirmed that the adults would be able to live in this enviornment,” Nichols said.
Freshwater mussels were once found throughout the upper reaches of the San Antonio River. Pollution, urban development and channel modifications prevented them from surviving.
“Freshwater mussles are primarily filter feeders meaning they take in the water and they filter out different things in water columns such as algae, detritus and bacteria, so they can improve water quality through this filtering process,” Nichols said.