Tahoe Regional Planning Agency column: The fight against aquatic invasive species continues (opinion)
Tahoe RCD in the News: a newspaper article featuring conservation work of the Tahoe RCD and partner agencies and organizations.
The Tahoe Daily Tribune | Joanne Marchetta, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency | May 22, 2019
While it felt like spring had finally arrived, we all know Mother Nature can be fickle, especially at Lake Tahoe.
For those who love to play in the snow, it was a fantastic winter, and a banner year for the Sierra snowpack. Despite some cooler weather now, steady warmer temperatures are on the way and our attention is shifting from the mountains to the lake.
Boating season is here, and our ongoing battle in the fight against aquatic invasive species continues. For 11 years, more than 40 agencies and private nonprofit partners have worked to prevent the further spread of aquatic invasives.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and our partners at the Tahoe Resource Conservation District are operating boat inspection stations around the basin. To date, we have been successful in this critical program. No discoveries of new aquatic invasive species have been detected over the last 10 years.
In no small measure, that’s thanks to the engagement of the boating community. Mandatory inspections have so far stopped the spread of aquatic invasive species like quagga and zebra mussels from entering Tahoe’s waters.
The mantra is simple: clean, drain, dry. Everyone launching a vessel at Lake Tahoe, whether it’s motorized or muscle powered, should be proactive in cleaning watercraft thoroughly. Once you clean it, make sure it’s drained and then fully dry before setting out. Research has shown that adult zebra mussels can survive for days out of water.
During the 2018 boating season, inspectors examined some 8,000 watercraft. Forty-four percent of those had been cleaned, drained and dried. But that means 56% of boaters and their vessels arrived at inspection stations with the potential to spread aquatic invasive species to Tahoe’s waters.
Were either of these invasive mussels able to take hold in Tahoe’s waters, their impacts could be catastrophic. Invasive mussels starve native aquatic species of nutrients they need to survive. Both quagga and zebra mussels are prolific procreators, quickly accumulating on underwater surfaces, encrusting docks, boats, and buoys. Their razor-like shells can carpet shallow waters and beaches, making for a painful encounter with the human foot.
There are harrowing examples of what could have been. Last July, Tahoe Resource Conservation District inspectors intercepted a boat infested with multiple aquatic invasive species. An undetected crack in the boat’s pontoon was allowing water to seep in. Inspectors found adult quagga and zebra mussels, and other aquatic plants and snails — a glaring example of how easy it is for an unsuspecting boater to introduce aquatic invasive species to Tahoe’s ecosystem.
While powerboats get most of the attention, local kayakers, paddle boarders, and other non-motorized watercraft users can also unintentionally introduce invasives to the lake. The League to Save Lake Tahoe’s “Eyes on the Lake” program has educated thousands of lake lovers, enlisting an army of citizen scientists to help monitor the lake’s shoreline and report sightings of invasive plants like watermilfoil and curlyleaf pondweed.
The League will offer several “Eyes on the Lake” training classes throughout the summer. Already, 3,000 people have been trained to keep an eye on Tahoe, helping to protect our clear and pristine waters. The Tahoe Keepers program also has enlisted thousands of paddlers in the quest to protect the lake.
Ground zero in the fight against invasive plants is the Tahoe Keys. The area continues to see large-scale infestations of invasive plants so severe that it’s threatening the entire lake.
In a genuinely collaborative undertaking, the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association (TKPOA) has partnered with multiple organizations to develop a comprehensive plan to stop the spread of invasive plants. Last month, the property association provided the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Governing Board with an update on the testing to be done in the Tahoe Keys over the next two years.
Testbed studies will be undertaken, using a variety of methods, including the continued application of underwater barriers and the testing of ultraviolet light treatments. The question of whether to use EPA-approved aquatic herbicides is still under discussion and review as part of the testing process over the next few years.
In the meantime, TKPOA and its partners are taking proactive measures to contain these invasive plants within the Keys’ borders. For a second summer, a bubble curtain will operate at the entrance to the Keys. Using a powerful stream of air, this curtain technology dislodges pieces of plant material attached to the bottom of watercraft. Pairing with the bubble curtains, TKPOA has also invested in autonomous sea bins to gather the plant material dislodged from boats leaving the marina.
Protecting and preserving Lake Tahoe’s waters is paramount to TRPA’s mission. Stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species at the lake is a daunting task, and collaborative actions will continue to pave the path to success.
Please join us in this fight and learn more at http://www.tahoeboatinspections.com.
Joanne Marchetta is the executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency
Lake Tahoe, CA/NV
Roadside watercraft inspections stations aimed at stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species are opening for the season. Locations, hours of operation, and opening dates are online at TahoeBoatInspections.com and as follows:
Opening Wednesday, May 1:
8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., seven days a week
- Meyers: at the junction of US Highway 50 and Highway 89, South Lake Tahoe
- Spooner Summit: at the junction of US Highway 50 and Highway 28 in Nevada
- Alpine Meadows: Highway 89, off Alpine Meadows Road north of Tahoe City
Opening Monday, May 20:
8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., seven days a week
- Truckee-Tahoe: Highway 267, off Truckee Airport Road
The watercraft inspection program is entering its second decade of fighting aquatic invasive species at Lake Tahoe. The first 10 years were successful because of partnerships and support from the community, with no new documented invasions since the inception of the program.
“We are grateful to everyone who supports protecting Lake Tahoe from invasive species, especially the dedication and diligence of the Tahoe Resource Conservation District’s boat inspectors,” said Dennis Zabaglo, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s aquatic resources program manager.
All motorized watercraft require an inspection before launching into Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake, Echo Lake, and Donner Lake. Invasive species, such as quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails, and hydrilla, are known to quickly colonize underwater surfaces. Knowingly transporting aquatic invasive species into Lake Tahoe is against the law, and violators are subject to fines.
This year, the annual watercraft inspection fee schedule is being simplified, condensing 13 categories to five to make it easier to understand and more accurately reflect inspection work and boat complexity. Decontamination fees were also modified to reflect the work it takes to decontaminate watercraft. To find out how the new fee schedule affects you, please visit: tahoeboatinspections.com
Remember, before arriving at inspections stations: Clean, Drain, and Dry your watercraft. “Save time and money by making sure to drain all water from the intake systems, clean out your vessel, and make sure it is dry,” advises Chris Kilian, AIS program manager for the Tahoe Resource Conservation District.
Transporting boats on roads in the Lake Tahoe Basin and the state of Nevada requires bilge plugs to be removed from the vessel. Draining watercraft during transit helps prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Boaters on the water should fill and drain ballast tanks in the same location, making sure they are at least 200 feet from shore.
Invasive species are highly opportunistic, and non-motorized watercraft are also capable of transporting aquatic invasive species. The Tahoe Keepers program informs the paddling community about the importance of inspecting their equipment, keeping Kayaks, paddleboards, fishing equipment, inflatable water toys, and life jackets from spreading invasive species. For more information visit tahoekeepers.org.
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.
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.
“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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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