Boat inspections now required |

Boat inspections now required

Annie Flanzraich / North Lake Tahoe Bonanza

All boats in Lake Tahoe are subject to inspection before launching, according to a new Tahoe Regional Planning Agency code adopted Wednesday.

The TRPA Governing Board unanimously adopted two new provisions in regards to aquatic invasive species and Lake Tahoe at its meeting Wednesday, which took place at The Chateau in Incline Village. The first provision prohibits the introduction of aquatic invasive species into the Lake Tahoe region. It also prohibits any boat contaminated with invasive species from launching into Lake Tahoe.

The second provision subjects all watercraft to an inspection by TRPA officials or designees before launching in order to prevent the spread of invasive species.

“We have a better capability of detecting infested boats and keeping them out of Lake Tahoe,” said Dennis Zabaglo, TRPA senior environmental specialist watercraft program manager.

The board’s decision came after staff made a presentation on the dangers of invasive species such as quagga or zebra mussels, Asian clams, milfoil, curly leaf pond weed and large-mouth bass. The TRPA also is embarking on a campaign to educate the public, specifically about quagga and zebra mussels.

In January, zebra mussels were found in San Justo Reservoir, about 250 miles away in California. Quagga mussels were found in Lake Mead in January 2007. The proximity of these two locations have made officials worried about a possible infestation in Lake Tahoe. Invasive mussels can destroy a lake’s ecology and economy by clogging infrastructure, ruining boats and eliminating vital elements of the food chain.

Boat inspection is a key way TRPA and other agencies hope to keep mussels out, Zabaglo said.

Under the new codes, all boats are subject to inspection. If a boater wishes to launch at a public or private site and is asked to comply with an inspection, they are required to by law. If they refuse, the boater could face civil ramifications and possibly a $5,000 fine. However, the new rule does not give TRPA authority to prevent a boat from launching without an inspection – only authority to seek civil reclamation after the fact.

“We can’t physically detain someone,” Zabaglo said. “We need compliance from the public and private launches.”

If a boat is inspected and found to be contaminated, TRPA will have boat-washing stations available in the beginning of June to clean the boat. If the boater complies with the inspection and cleaning before launching, no penalties would be assigned.

However, if a contaminated boat is found and the boater refuses to comply and have his or her boat cleaned, local game wardens and other officials will be called in to enforce local, state and possibly federal laws.

Zabaglo said these new provisions give more leverage to the inspection launched around the lake May 16.

“We now have enforcement capability under the code,” he said. “If a boater refuses inspection there are ramifications.”

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