Boat inspectors recently prevented two vessels from launching at Lake Tahoe and other regional lakes, after discovering infestations of aquatic invasive species (AIS). During mandatory inspections in Meyers and Truckee, California, inspectors found invasive mussels on both boats.
Inspectors intercepted the first boat at the inspection Station in Meyers, California. The powerboat was coming to Lake Tahoe from Lake Pleasant, Arizona. Discovered on the boat’s hull were some 100 invasive mussels, many suspected to be alive. Inspectors treated and killed the mussels during the decontamination process, but the infestation was so large that inspectors could not remove all the mussels from the boat’s hull and other hard-to-reach areas. The watercraft was not allowed to launch.
In the second case, inspectors in Truckee, California intercepted a small nonmotorized sailboat that contained approximately 20 dead mussels. The mussels were found inside of the sailboat’s keel locker on the hull. The owner stated the boat had been out of the water for about four years, and that he had unknowingly purchased the boat with the mussels already onboard.
“This is a stark reminder of why inspections are mandatory at Lake Tahoe. Aquatic invasive species pose a serious threat and we rely on the hard work and diligence of our boat inspection team to protect Lake Tahoe and other waterbodies,” said Chris Kilian, Tahoe Resource Conservation District.
- Both vessels were intercepted by inspectors before they could launch into local waterbodies.
- Both boats were quarantined for further inspection and decontamination.
- Regarding the boat from Arizona, the mussels lived through the 700-mile, 12-hour trip to Tahoe.
- Deemed to be a high-risk vessel, California Department of Fish and Wildlife required a mechanic to take apart the powerboat’s drive to remove potentially live mussels. The craft was returned to Arizona, and never launched in Lake Tahoe.
- The sailboat was eventually cleared from quarantine and allowed to launch at Donner Lake.
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s aquatic resources program manager Dennis Zabaglo said, “In both instances, inspectors on the front-line kept watercraft from potentially harming Lake Tahoe’s fragile ecosystem. These incidents underscore the need for boaters to arrive at inspection stations with their craft clean, drained, and dried.”
In the last 11 years, the Lake Tahoe Watercraft Inspection Program has been successful in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species into Lake Tahoe and other waterbodies in the Region. Once introduced, species like quagga and zebra mussels would have devastating consequences for the ecosystem and economy.
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.
First Firewise USA® Community in the Lake Tahoe Basin
Years of efforts to reduce the vulnerability of homes and landscapes to wildfire has
earned Carnelian Woods Townhouse Association, Firewise USA® recognition status
from the National Fire Protection Association. Carnelian Woods completed a rigorous
set of criteria to become a participant in the national program.
“We are very proud that we’ve achieved the Firewise USA® designation. Reducing the
risk of wildfire can only be accomplished when we all work together,” said Celia Barry,
Carnelian Woods Board Member. She hopes that other communities in the Lake Tahoe
Basin will join the Firewise USA® program to help prevent wildfires in Lake Tahoe.
Tahoe Resource Conservation District’s Fire Adapted Communities Coordinator, Carlie
Murphy, illustrates the need for community outreach and education when working with
neighborhoods, “One of the most effective tools for bringing a neighborhood-wide
program into your community is ensuring there are plenty of opportunities for
individuals to ask questions and get involved in the process.” Murphy also emphasized
that there is no better time for neighborhoods to prepare for wildfire. Learn more about
what you can do to prepare for wildfire at tahoe.livingwithfire.info.
“Prepared, informed, engaged and proactive communities must take the responsibility to
mitigate their wildfire risk head-on, and understand that we all live, work and play in a
fire-dependent ecosystem. Communities must take responsibility, while working with
local Fire and Resource Conservation agencies, to help engage and inform community
members that it is imperative to work towards a common goal of meeting defensible
space requirements on all properties, as well as emphasizing the necessity of emergency
preparedness,” states North Tahoe Fire Protection District’s Defensible Space Inspector,
Carnelian Woods worked with North Tahoe Fire Protection District and the Fire Adapted
Communities Program (through Tahoe Resource Conservation District) to complete a
community wildfire hazard assessment and develop an action plan that will guide their
efforts to reduce risks to residents and their homes. Implementation of their plan has
begun and will continue as part of the program’s annual renewal requirements.
Firewise USA® is a nationwide program that provides formal recognition to
communities implementing actions to protect people and properties from the risk of fire
in the wildland/urban interface. Participants reduce their wildfire risks by actively
participating in the program and completing requirements each year.
Communities interested in participating in the Firewise USA® program can learn more
The Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities is an alliance of organizations working to reduce wildfire risk in the Lake Tahoe Basin. It is made up of fire protection districts, land management agencies, and engaged communities. The Network focuses on these objectives:
Connect residents and fire protection districts to create defensible space.
Educate residents to become knowledgeable and capable citizens in the face of wildfire threat.
Empower leaders to organize their communities and build resilient communities.
Signup for the Tahoe network of Fire Adapted Communities monthly newsletter.
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.
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