Volunteers trained by an Eyes on the Lake program found and last week almost entirely removed a sizable infestation of Eurasian watermilfoil on the lower reaches of the Upper Truckee River near Tahoe Keys Marina.
Fourteen volunteers met up with four League to Save Lake Tahoe staffers to wade into the river and pull out the invasive weed. Some of the volunteers stood on guard downstream, armed with pool skimmers to catch any fragments of the weed that might break loose and float off, because the fragments can cause new infestations.
“It was a pretty thick patch, about 4 feet wide by 300 feet long. We focused on the top and worked our way downstream,” said Jesse Patterson, deputy director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “About 100 gallons of plant material was pulled out of the river.”
The two-hour cleanup addressed about 80 percent of the Eurasian watermilfoil infestation, which was previously unknown to local agencies that monitor invasive weed populations in and around Lake Tahoe.
The group is planning another work day to remove the rest of Eurasian watermilfoil and plans to keep watching the river to make sure it does not grow back.
The Eyes on the Lake program, in its second year, trains people to identify aquatic plants so they can spot invasive species while out recreating on water bodies in the area, and report infestations for removal before they get too big to easily manage.
The program has trained about 85 people. Another Eyes on the Lake training open to the public is set for this Saturday at the Tahoe Keys pavilion. It runs from 10 a.m. to noon.
“This infestation was discovered when it was still small and could be removed in a few hours by about a dozen volunteers, saving resource agencies money that should go to treating larger infestations and funding prevention programs like boat inspections,” Patterson said. “We hope it will demonstrate to other communities how volunteer monitoring programs can be a part of the solution and play an important role in tackling invasive species.”
While removing the Eurasian watermilfoil, volunteers also spotted a large, previously unreported infestation of curlyleaf pondweed, another aquatic invasive species. It was found growing downstream near the mouth of the Upper Truckee River.
“We’re going to go back and map that (infestation) a little better and present that to the Lake Tahoe Aquatic Invasive Species Working Group to see how they want to address that one,” Patterson said.
Patterson said aquatic invasive species will be a large focus at next week’s Lake Tahoe Summit as a major threat to the lake’s environment.
“There’s a definite need for funding to keep boat inspections up,” Patterson said. “It’s nice to see this program can help agencies not have to spend as much money on control efforts, at least for small infestations, so they focus on boat inspections that are vital.”