Bipartisan bill to stop spread of aquatic invasive species introduced

Laney Griffo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and Mark Amodei (R-NV) on Oct. 22 introduced the “Stop the Spread of Invasive Mussels Act.”

This bipartisan legislation would authorize federal land management agencies to take proven, commonsense measures to prevent the proliferation of invasive species in our nation’s waterways, lakes, reservoirs, and aqueducts.

The bill was introduced to the House and was referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

Garamendi is a representative of Lake County, California, which has seen its critically important tourist economy centered around Clear Lake threatened by invasive Quagga Mussels and other aquatic invasive species exacerbating the lake’s harmful algal blooms. Garamendi has secured federal resources in recent years to help curb the presence of invasive species in Clear Lake, and the “Stop the Spread of Invasive Mussels Act” can provide key support in this ongoing effort, a press release said.

“Invasive species crowd out native wildlife and incur billions of dollars in avoidable damage to our nation’s critical water infrastructure, particularly in western states like California,” Garamendi said in the release. “In my Congressional district, proliferate Quagga and Zebra Mussels clog water pipelines, reduce the capacity of canals, and damage reservoir operations for hydropower, water storage, and flood control.

“The best defense against spreading invasive aquatic species is simple: inspection and decontaminating watercraft so they do not spread aquatic invasive species from one waterbody to another,” Garamendi continued.

In Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency said in a report this week, that more boats than ever this season were intercepted carrying aquatic invasive species. The number of watercraft being inspected also showed an uptick, but no new invasive species have been detected in the lake.

“At Lake Tahoe we’re laser-focused on the threat that aquatic invasive species pose to ecosystems, recreational quality, and local economies,” TRPA Acting Executive Director Julie Regan said in a statement to the Tribune. “We’re grateful to our congressional delegation for this legislation which will improve partnership and coordination across western states, providing greater protection for all water bodies including Lake Tahoe.”

According to California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, invasive Quagga Mussels were first detected at an intake for the Colorado River Aqueduct in 2007, which supplies water for communities in southern California. Since then, the State of California has confirmed that all reservoirs, lakes, and watersheds receiving raw Colorado River water have been exposed to Quagga Mussels. The first confirmed find of Zebra mussels in California was in 2008, at the San Justo Reservoir in San Benito County, California.

These mussels haven’t yet found their way to Tahoe and organizations are working diligently to make sure they don’t.

According to the League to Save Lake Tahoe’s website, “An infestation of invasive mussels is an immediate threat to Lake Tahoe. The quagga and zebra mussels reproduce and colonize quickly and if introduced to Lake Tahoe would do irreparable damage to its ecosystem.

“Our bipartisan ‘Stop the Spread of Invasive Mussels Act’ would ensure that federal land management agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service have the legal authority to conduct these inspections on federal land. In addition, our bill would establish a new U.S. Bureau of Reclamation grant program for inspection stations at federally managed reservoirs like the those that comprise the Solano and Central Valley Projects,” Garamendi said.

“I am proud to join Congressman Garamendi in introducing the “Stop the Spread of Invasive Mussels Act”, which invests critical resources in building and operating additional invasive species inspection stations, while also allowing the Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service to aid in these efforts. This legislation is a commonsense solution to empower our federal agencies to be responsible stewards of our lakes and waterways, which is vital to the preservation of Lake Tahoe,” Rep. Amodei said in the release.

The Western Governors’ Association, National Wildlife Federation, National Marine Manufacturers Association, American Sportfishing Association, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies have endorsed the bill.

The full text of the “Stop the Spread of Invasive Mussels Act” can be viewed here.

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