INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - With the boating season winding down and most watercraft being removed from Lake Tahoe before the winter storms arrive, it's an excellent time to contemplate whether the time has finally come to move swiftly in the direction of regulations that will prevent invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels from taking hold in the Lake environment. Along with wildfire, the biggest threat to property values in the Lake Tahoe basin are the aquatic invasive species that have already brought economic and environmental harm to Lake Mead and other major recreational areas in North America.
While mandatory boat inspections have been taking place for the last few years, the threat of invasive species destroying Lake clarity, ruining the beaches and clogging water intake pipes is very real. Even though the TRPA started mandatory boat inspections a few years ago, there are so many private boat ramps, piers and boathouses around the Lake that it only takes one contaminated vessel to begin the downward spiral which will be devastating to the Lake Tahoe economy.
Sadly, there have been dozens of instances in the past few years of out of area boat owners bringing their watercraft to Lake Tahoe without properly washing, cleaning and drying their watercraft. This has resulted in the discovery of boats contaminated with invasive species and it is only sheer luck that Lake Tahoe has not suffered a massive invasion of zebra and quagga mussels.
The entire Lake Tahoe economy will suffer greatly and property values will drop precipitously if the lake becomes infested with aquatic invasive species multiplying out of control. Since there is essentially no way to eradicate these rapidly reproducing shellfish, it is imperative that preventive measures be 100 percent foolproof. Unfortunately, as long as there are private boat ramps and piers where boaters can launch their vessels without going through an inspection the risk of Lake Tahoe becoming contaminated is alarmingly high.
We cannot allow a recreational pursuit to destroy property values all around the Lake simply because a few out of area boaters are careless or unconcerned about decontaminating their watercraft properly. There are now many lakes in Nevada and Northern California within a one-day drive of Lake Tahoe that are suffering the ill effects from the introduction of zebra and quagga mussels, meaning it is only a matter of time before a contaminated boat slips into Lake Tahoe.
While out of area boaters may complain about a stringent new regulation, the fact of the matter is we all need to work together to protect this jewel which is the driver of the Lake Tahoe economy. There are actually a number of positive economic benefits to moving in the direction of a Tahoe Only Boats program. First of all, the local marinas and boat companies will immediately see an enormous increase in business for both watercraft sales and rentals. This will lead to the hiring of more staff for boat sales, service, deliveries and transportation.
If the only boats permitted in Lake Tahoe are locally owned and registered, there will be a dramatic increase in the sale of watercraft, accessories, fuel and safety equipment. It would be very easy to implement a program where Tahoe Only Boats are licensed and registered and stored in approved facilities. Watercraft retailers and storage businesses in Reno and Carson City will also see a jump in sales and rentals if these new regulations are employed.
At first glance, there will of course be some opposition to a Tahoe Only Boats campaign because some people just like to have their own way without regard for the long term negative impacts on the Lake Tahoe environment. But when clearer heads prevail it will become obvious to everyone that we cannot afford the economic and environmental devastation that will occur if aquatic invasive species take hold around the Lake. We already have problems with Asian clams and milfoil along with algae blooms infesting marinas and beaches in pockets from the Tahoe Keys around to Zephyr Cove. The eradication efforts that have been under way to deal with these invasive species have had a marginal impact at best.
While out of area boat owners may complain about implementing this type of program, it's not fair to expect Lake Tahoe property owners to risk economic devastation for the selfish enjoyment of a small group of nonresidents. Please write to the TRPA Board of Governors and ask them to make Tahoe Only Boats the top priority prior to the start of the 2013 boating season.
- Don Kanare is an Incline Village resident and Realtor at RE/MAX Premier Properties.