Tahoe AIS Prevention - Tahoe Boat Inspections

Image shows a cluster of zebra mussels poking out of water. The mussels have faint stripes.

Watercraft are the largest vector for spreading aquatic invasive species (AIS) into new waterways. Mandatory inspections stop aquatic invasive species, such as quagga mussels, BEFORE they enter the water. This is done through boat inspections, decontaminations to remove any biological risk, and continuous education for our watercraft users. 

With the cooperation of our partners and the public, Tahoe RCD has effectively prevented any new species from entering Lake Tahoe since the program’s inception in 2008.

Millions of dead zebra mussels covering the beach at Lake Winnipeg
Millions of dead zebra mussels covering the beach at Lake Winnipeg. Photo by: Timm Bruch / Global News

The most serious threats to streams and lakes in the Lake Tahoe Region are zebra and quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails, and hydrilla. Each of these invaders is spread through the transport of water and/or debris that can collect in bilges, cling to outer hulls and rudders and even hide out on your gear. To learn more about the species that threaten the Lake Tahoe Region, click HERE.

If you are a watercraft user in the Lake Tahoe region and would like information on program requirements, please visit TahoeBoatInspections.com.

History -Tahoe as “The Gold Standard”

In 2007, quagga mussels were identified in Lake Mead, NV.  Tahoe RCD, along with partnering agencies, jumped into action to assess the risk that Lake Tahoe faced.  In 2008, Tahoe RCD began the first watercraft inspections and surveys for the prevention of AIS in Lake Tahoe.  In 2009, inspections performed by RCD staff became mandatory for all motorized vessels through a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Code of Ordinance.

Staff Overlook Lake Tahoe

Since the beginning, Tahoe RCD has worked with local businesses, stakeholders and partners to develop a program that worked best for everyone while remaining uncompromisingly effective against the threat of AIS, and has assisted with Western States regional trainings on the subject. Tahoe RCD partners with other programs nationally and continues to develop technical resources on watercraft decontaminations and inspection protocols used throughout the Western States and Canada.  In addition, Tahoe RCD has led the way in the development of proprietary equipment used to decontaminate watercraft faster, more effectively, and more efficiently than ever before.  It is for these reasons that the Tahoe Boat Inspection program is frequently referred to as “The Gold Standard.”


Once AIS are introduced and establish a local population, they are extremely costly to control and often impossible to eradicate. For example, the Lake Mead community spends over $20 million a year to combat their quagga mussel infestation. The prevention of new AIS is more effective and more economical than the control or eradication of an existing infestation.

A boat's drive unit is covered by mussels
Mussels covering a boat’s drive unit

In order to avoid this expensive and detrimental outcome for our community, Tahoe RCD has been working closely with marinas and businesses to ensure the needs of all stakeholders in our community.  By preventing the spread of new invasive species, the Boat Inspection Program helps to maintain property values, clean drinking water, clean beaches, recreation, lake clarity and the integrity and beauty of our natural surroundings for future generations.

This massive effort requires a workforce, and this program is proud to train and employ about 30 seasonal and full-time staff within the Tahoe region at a competitive wage.  To learn more about becoming a watercraft inspector, click HERE.

Watercraft Inspector Team
The 2012 Watercraft Inspection Team

Tahoe RCD also works to help inform our community of the threat of AIS through education at our inspection stations and targeted Take Care campaigns for boaters on Lake Tahoe. If you would like to receive training on how to Clean, Drain and Dry your non-motorized watercraft, stop by our inspection stations, visit our website, or attend a training for Tahoe Keepers, our non-motorized stewardship program.  If you do not have a watercraft, but would like more information on AIS or the watercraft inspection program, please call our hotline at 888-824-6267 or visit TahoeBoatInspections.com.

Stay Up To Date

Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive information about events, programs, services, job opportunities and more!