The largest Asian clam control project in the history of Lake Tahoe will begin Oct. 15, with plans to treat an area of up to 5 acres at the mouth of Emerald Bay.
The project will be conducted by a team of partners from the Lake Tahoe Aquatic Invasive Species Program and aims to treat a small, isolated population of Asian clams before they spread to an unmanageable level. According to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the clams are currently living on a shallow gravel sill about 15 feet blow the surface that partially separates Emerald Bay from Lake Tahoe. The treatment will involve covering the infested lake bottom with thin rubber barriers augmented with organic material, which will reduce the available oxygen and smother the clams. The infestation is small enough to manage, but could grow rapidly without control measures put in place. The barriers will stay in place for a year.
Work will primarily occur in early mornings to minimize interference with recreational boating; however, boaters entering Emerald Bay may be asked by on-site coordinators to delay their entrance into the bay for a short while to ensure diver safety, TRPA stated. Work will only occur during the week, with no work occurring on the weekends or holidays, and has been scheduled not to interfere with the summer boating season. Boaters planning to visit Emerald Bay during these periods are asked to take extra precautions to avoid disrupting the control project or endangering the divers.
Controlling the Asian clam population in Lake Tahoe is critical as the clams have a variety of negative impacts which include increasing the potential for other species such as quagga mussels to establish in Lake Tahoe by increasing localized calcium concentrations and promoting the growth of algae by releasing highly concentrated nutrients. Increases in algae impact the scenic beauty of the shoreline by changing the water color, reducing water quality and washing rotting materials onto the beaches. Perhaps most significant, Asian clams compete with native animals for habitat and food, which causes a disruption in the food web, according to TRPA.