Boat inspections continue at Tahoe during winter |

Boat inspections continue at Tahoe during winter

RENO, Nev. – Even though winter’s approach means there are fewer boats on Lake Tahoe, any watercraft launched will continue to be inspected for the presence of invasive mussels.

Quagga and zebra mussels pose a big environmental and economic risk to the lake, and vigilance – even during off-peak seasons – is key because the mussels can spread just as easily in the winter as in the summer, according to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“It’s a big deal and certainly a high priority,” said Ted Thayer, aquatic invasive species program manager for the agency.

Neither type of mussel has been found in the lake. Quagga mussels were found on a boat preparing to launch in 2008 and boat inspections started that spring. A fee program also has been started to raise money for inspections.

Once the mussels become established in a body of water, they’re nearly impossible to eradicate. They can require costly work to constantly clear them from pipes in dams, power plants and irrigation canals.

Quagga mussels were first found in Lake Mead in January 2007 and have spread to other bodies of water in southern Nevada, California and Arizona.

If mussels became established in Lake Tahoe, they could cover water intakes and docks and litter beaches with shells.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno showed that despite Tahoe’s low calcium levels, mussels apparently could survive, said Sudeep Chandra, chief UNR researcher for the study.

And a recent Army Corps of Engineers study also said a mussel invasion could cost Tahoe’s tourism-dependent economy $22 million a year.

“The threat to the regional economy is considerable, and it’s not an imagined threat,” Thayer said.

Inspections have slowed as the weather turns colder. Inspectors from the Tahoe Resource Conservation District are now based only at launches at Cave Rock and Lake Forest.

Boats using private facilities will be inspected by trained employees.

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