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Ten years of fighting aquatic invasive species at Lake Tahoe

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This year marks the tenth anniversary of Lake Tahoe’s Watercraft Inspection Program. Under the program, every motorized watercraft is inspected to ensure it is clean, drained, and dry and not carrying aquatic invasive species before launching at Tahoe. Thanks to diligent boaters and watercraft inspectors, no new aquatic invasive species have been detected in Lake Tahoe since the program began 10 years ago.

Of the nearly 8,000 vessels watercraft inspectors examined this boating season, 44 percent of them arrived clean, drained, and dry. Eleven watercraft were found carrying invasive mussels and 40 were harboring other species.

Adult quagga mussels were found attached to a personal watercraft at the Spooner roadside inspection station on July 18, 2018.

This exemplifies the excellent work by the inspectors, but also that watercraft continue to be a vector of aquatic invasive species. Each fouled vessel was decontaminated prior to launching in Lake Tahoe. The largest number of decontaminations occur on vessels containing standing water, which may contain unwanted seeds, plant fragments, or microscopic larvae.

Boaters are encouraged to continue to be a part of the solution by cleaning, draining, and drying their vessel before launching in any waterbody. This includes both motorized and non-motorized watercraft.

This July, Tahoe Resource Conservation District (Tahoe RCD) watercraft inspectors intercepted a pontoon boat harboring multiple aquatic invasive species of concern. An inconspicuous crack in the pontoon allowed water and vegetation to enter, and several invasive species then grew within.

 

The boat came from Eastern United States and was inspected at the Alpine Meadows watercraft inspection station on Highway 89 in California. Staff discovered standing water, adult quagga and zebra mussels, aquatic vegetation, New Zealand mudsnails, and multiple other species inside the pontoon system. After discovery of the invasive species, inspectors coordinated with California Department of Fish and Wildlife and performed a full decontamination of the vessel to kill and remove all invasive species.

On July 18, 2018, the adult quagga mussels were found on the reverse bucket of a personal watercraft.

“This incident is the perfect example of how boats are the number one transport mechanism for aquatic invasive species,” said Christopher Kilian, program manager at the Tahoe RCD. “This is a good reminder that you could unknowingly transport invasive species and highlights the importance of being diligent when practicing Clean, Drain, and Dry techniques before travelling to a new location.”

“They may hide on the hull, in your bilge, on your anchor, in your ballast system, or in this case: inside a pontoon. We’d like everyone to keep this in mind as they travel to other waterbodies or prepare for inspections.” All watercraft are required to be inspected prior to launching in Lake Tahoe.

 

Quagga mussels were found on board a boat at the Meyers roadside inspection station on August 22, 2018. The decontamination process included a hot water wash (140 degrees Fahrenheit) of all toys, life jackets, anchors and lines.

 

As fall approaches, boat inspections will move to select launch ramps and winter hours will begin on October 1.  Tahoe Resource Conservation District (Tahoe RCD) inspectors will be stationed at Cave Rock and Lake Forest boat launch ramps from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week, weather permitting. All boats without an intact Tahoe inspection seal are required to get an inspection during daylight hours.

Decontaminations are available at Cave Rock and Lake Forest throughout October as weather permits. Decontamination fees will apply for watercraft that are not clean, drained and dry. Watercraft that has been in a known infested waterbody will require a precautionary decontamination at no cost regardless of whether it has been cleaned, drained, and dry. Boats with intact inspection seals are permitted to launch at all open launch facilities; however, inspections are only available at Cave Rock and Lake Forest boat launch ramps.  Boaters are encouraged to confirm hours and inspection locations at TahoeBoatInspections.com or by calling 888-824-6267.

 

A display of sizes of quagga mussels to scale in inches.

A new invasive species introduction in Lake Tahoe could have devastating impacts. Without natural predators, invasive species multiply quickly and can colonize the lake, as well as docks, water pipes, filtration systems, piers, ramps, and boats. They destroy fish habitat, impair boat engines, and negatively impact water quality and recreation, thus posing serious threats to the ecology, recreation, infrastructure, and economy of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

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To learn how to clean, drain, and dry your vessel and prepare for a watercraft inspection, please visit www.TahoeBoatInspections.com.

Please note that the Truckee Watercraft Inspection Station is closed for the season. The other three stations will remain open through September 30, 2018.

For non-motorized watercraft preparing to boat in the Lake Tahoe Region, please visit www.TahoeKeepers.org to learn more.

TNFAC: Helping residents and visitors prepare for wildfire

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Wildfires have been raging through the United Sates in 2018, with California having its worst fire year in over 10 years and Nevada currently recovering from the largest single fire in its history. With increased temperatures, low humidity, and large fuel loads of dead shrubs, brush, and trees left behind from the 2012-2017 drought, it is crucial to prepare now, before the next wildfire occurs.

To help residents and visitors in the Lake Tahoe Basin prepare for wildfire, the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT) created the Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities (TNFAC). TNFAC is a multi-agency collaboration, led by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, that brings communities together with the resources they need to prepare for wildfire. In wildfire-prone areas, fire adapted communities reduce the potential for loss of human life and injury, minimize damage to homes and infrastructure, and reduce firefighting costs by taking the necessary steps to prepare properties and people before a wildfire occurs.

Five steps you can take today to prepare for wildfire: 

  1. Access: Ensure your home can be easily accessed by emergency first responders during a wildfire by making sure your address is clearly visible from the street and any gated driveways can be accessed during an emergency. Contact your local fire district to ask if emergency first responders could arrive at your home in a safe and timely manner.

  2. Built Environment: Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the exterior of your home, such as roofing, siding, decking, trim, windows, and fencing. Check for weak spots on your home where wildfire embers could ignite the structure and remove debris year-round from gutters, roofs, vents, and chimneys. 

    Interactive house displaying ember vulnerabilities of the built environment and around the home.

  3. Community Protection: TFFT partners work together to provide community protection to neighborhoods by creating fuel breaks on public land, utilizing prescribed fire, and implementing strategies from the 2015 Lake Tahoe Basin Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Help the TFFT by reducing fuels for wildfire on your property and developing fire adapted communities in your neighborhood.

    A neighborhood block party to build community protection and reduce fuels in the neighborhood.

  4. Defensible Space: Remove all vegetation within five feet of any structure year-round and contact your local fire district about getting a free defensible space evaluation to ensure you are properly managing your vegetation to reduce wildfire threat.

    North Lake Tahoe Fire District helping homeowners to build defensible space.

  5. Evacuation: Sign up to receive emergency notifications, prepare an evacuation supply kit, develop a family emergency plan, and practice preparing your home, family, and guests for an evacuation. Sign up to receive emergency notifications to your cell phone, home phone, and email through your county’s emergency notification system:
    • El Dorado County: ready.edso.org
    • Placer County: placer-alert.org
    • Douglas County: douglascounty.onthealert.com
    • Washoe County: washoecounty.us/em/RegionalAlerts.php

The Fire Adapted Communities Program relies heavily on self-identified leaders to help organize their neighborhoods. Neighborhood leaders work with fire district personnel and the TNFAC to help distribute educational materials, plan community work days and wildfire preparedness block parties, and help keep wildfire preparedness on the neighborhood’s agenda year-round. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about becoming a neighborhood leader, contact Carlie Teague at cteague@tahoercd.org or 530-543-1501 ext. 114.

The Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities (TNFAC) participates in numerous community events around Lake Tahoe. Find out where TNFAC is next by visiting the events calendar at tahoe.livingwithfire.info/calendar/ or sign up for the monthly TNFAC e-newsletter.

For more information about upcoming events, how to prepare for wildfire, or to locate your local fire district, visit tahoe.livingwithfire.info.

The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT) consists of representatives of Tahoe Basin fire agencies, CAL FIRE, Nevada Division of Forestry and related state agencies, University of California and Nevada Cooperative Extensions, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, conservation districts from both states, the California Tahoe Conservancy and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. Our Mission is to protect lives, property and the environment within the Lake Tahoe Basin from wildfire by implementing prioritized fuels reduction projects and engaging the public in becoming a Fire Adapted Community. For more information, visit tahoetfft.org

Elk Point Marina Aquatic Invasive Plant Control Project

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Elk Point Country Club Homeowners pitch in to tackle aquatic invasive plant infestation on East Shore

Tahoe Resource Conservation District is pleased to announce the development of a partnership with Elk Point Marina Homeowners’ Association. In Fall of 2016, Tahoe RCD presented a project proposal to the Elk Point Country Club Homeowners’ Association Board to address the aquatic invasive plant infestation at Elk Point Marina on Tahoe’s East Shore. The homeowners were eager to learn how they could assist. To start, their Marina Manager attended Eyes on the Lake Training provided by the League to Save Lake Tahoe. In this training, their staff learned how to identify native and non-native aquatic invasive plant species in the marina and how to monitor their presence.

MTS_MR_2016.Aug.19_0049_TRAD

In 2017, Nevada Division of State Lands provided funding for Tahoe Resource Conservation District’s contracted divers to survey the Nevada shoreline from Stateline to Zephyr Point for the aquatic invasive plants Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) and curly-leaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus). The divers found Eurasian watermilfoil occupying shoreline just to the north and south of the Marina. These detections demonstrated the need for a comprehensive control strategy for Elk Point Marina to eliminate this source of invasive plants from the East Shore.

In 2018, the Elk Point Country Club HOA made a commitment to eliminate invasive plants in the Marina by providing a 25% match to the funds that Nevada Division of State Lands provided for the project. In June, divers installed 65 bottom barriers in the marina that will remain in place for the duration of the summer. In July, the League to Save Lake Tahoe provided an Eyes on the Lake 

EurasianMilfoil_underwater

training for homeowners and discussed best management practices to deter the growth of plants in the Marina once the project has reached completion. These practices include daily skimming of the Marina for any detected plant fragments, an annual Eyes on the Lake survey conducted by marina staff, and annual diver surveys. Tahoe RCD extends its sincere thanks to Nevada Division of State Lands, Elk Point Country Club Homeowners’ Association, and the League to Save Lake Tahoe for their collaboration on this project and their commitment to this partnership.


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Could Repaving Roads Be a Water Quality BMP?

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In partnership with El Dorado County and Texas Southern University, the Tahoe Resource Conservation District (Tahoe RCD) is monitoring stormwater runoff from Elk’s Club Drive to quantify the amount of fine sediment that comes from the road itself. Samples are taken of the runoff water and sent to the laboratory for source apportionment analysis. This lab test uses molecular markers to determine what portion of the fine sediment in the runoff comes from native soil (road shoulder erosion), traction abrasives (road sand), and asphalt (the road itself). 

Elks Club road cracked with potholes

Elks Club road cracked with potholes.

Currently, Elk’s Club Drive is in poor condition. It is covered in cracks and potholes. Not only is a degraded road bad for public safety, it is difficult to recover road sand and other material through road sweeping. Road sediment is a large portion of the fine sediment that ends up in Lake Tahoe, reducing its famed clarity. Early results show that up to 30% of this fine sediment includes asphalt (aggregate and binder). El Dorado County will be repaving Elk’s Club Drive this summer. After it is repaved, the Tahoe RCD will continue to monitor the runoff from the road for an additional year. If data shows that repaving roads contributes to improved water quality (less sediment), then improved pavement condition could be recognized as a water quality Best Management Practice (BMP). This would not only be identified for garnering credits for the Lake Tahoe TMDL Clarity Crediting Program (https://clarity.laketahoeinfo.org/), but also potentially opening up water quality improvement funds for road maintenance. New roads would be beneficial for public safety, vehicle maintenance costs, aesthetic appeal, driving pleasure, road maintenance and sweeping operations, long term durability, snow removal operations, stormwater quality, and lake clarity. 

Runoff flowing over road surface.

Runoff flowing over road surface.

 

Measuring the runoff flow and volume.

Measuring the runoff flow and volume, and collecting water samples to take back to the laboratory for further analysis.

A washoff simulation was conducted in April to analyze runoff under controlled conditions. Over 5,000 gallons of water were released on Elk’s Club Drive and sampled at the terminal location. In a rainstorm, water runs off the road shoulder contributing native soil in runoff. In a snowstorm, there is likely to be high concentrations of road sand on the road and in runoff. The controlled simulation excluded native soil and road sand from the procedure, and focused runoff on the road surface only.  Early results show peak turbidities (cloudiness) occurring with peak flows, indicating that sediment is being continually supplied by the road and suggesting that the road itself is eroding. The sediment in the samples will be subjected to the source apportionment analysis to confirm if this hypothesis is correct. Though the data is not yet in, the Tahoe RCD and El Dorado County are hopeful that, in the future, investments in new roads will be viewed as a win-win for the community and the lake.

Early results show cloudiness of water (measured in NTU) coincides with the runoff flow peaks.

Early results show cloudiness of water (measured in NTU) coincides with the runoff flow peaks.

The Fourth of July boat inspections at Lake Tahoe

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Press Release_2018

The Fourth of July holiday and fireworks celebration brings a welcomed influx of boaters to the Lake Tahoe Basin. With sunny skies and warm temperatures predicted, boaters are urged to Clean, Drain, and Dry their boats before arriving at Lake Tahoe inspection stations to avoid delays and decontamination fees. As a reminder, all stations close at 5:30 p.m., so please plan accordingly.

Every motorized boat is required to be inspected for aquatic invasive species prior to launching in Lake Tahoe. Since May, inspectors have intercepted and decontaminated four boats containing invasive quagga mussels bound for the waters of Lake Tahoe. Without natural predators, invasive species pose serious threats to the ecology, recreation, and local economies of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Watercraft are one of the primary transporters of aquatic invasive species, and the inspection program is critical to preventing their introduction into Lake Tahoe and surrounding waterbodies. A new invasive species infestation in Lake Tahoe could have devastating impacts. Invasive species multiply quickly and can colonize all underwater objects, including docks, water pipes, filtration systems, piers, ramps, and boats. They destroy fish habitat, impair boat engines, and negatively impact water quality and recreation.

“Our boat inspectors have already found four vessels with invasive quagga mussels this season, which is a reminder of just how important the inspection process is to protect our blue waters,” said Chris Kilian, aquatic invasive species program manager with the Tahoe Resource Conservation District. “Over the busy holiday period we see the majority of our season’s boating traffic. After 10 years of fighting aquatic invasive species, we know that the best way to prepare is to arrive clean, drained, and dry to help save you time and money.”

Quick tips for boaters visiting the Lake Tahoe Basin this summer:

  • Visit TahoeBoatInspections.com or call 888-824-6267 for inspection locations, hours, fees, and information about boat inspections and invasive species.
  • Weekdays and mornings are typically less congested at roadside boat inspection stations. Friday evenings, Saturdays, and holidays are typically the busiest.
  • Prior to arriving, make sure your vessel is clean, drained, and dry.
  • Returning Tahoe boats with a Lake Tahoe wire seal still affixed to the boat and trailer may head directly to a launch ramp to purchase a 2018 Tahoe Only inspection sticker.
  • Check that all systems are working, batteries are charged, the boat has gas in the tank, and that you have the key to start the engine. Bring any specialized flushing adapters to the inspection station, as inspectors only have the most common types and sizes.
  • If flushing your engine at home prior to inspection, make sure to drain all residual water. If inspectors find water on your boat they are required to decontaminate.
  • Pull your drain plug. Nevada state law and local ordinance require bilge plugs be pulled while transporting a vessel on public roads.
  • Annual watercraft inspection fees range from $35 for personal watercraft and vessels under 17 feet up to $121 for vessels over 39 feet. An additional fee of $35 is charged for any boat requiring decontamination, with an additional $10 fee for ballast systems. Fees are payable via Visa or MasterCard (no cash or check).
  • Paddlers of kayaks, canoes and other non-motorized watercraft are encouraged to stop by an inspection station for a free inspection. Visit TahoeKeepers.org to learn how to self-inspect boats and gear and receive a free Tahoe Keepers sticker.

Take 3 Steps Closer to Fun by Arriving at Lake Tahoe Inspection Stations with your boat Clean, Drained, and Dry.