Citizens hope to unite against whitetop weed |

Citizens hope to unite against whitetop weed

Officials from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension want Lake Tahoe residents to help in the fight against an enemy invader.

The enemy is the noxious weed tall whitetop, and its presence at Lake Tahoe has spread.

“Everyone has the attitude that, ‘We think someone else should take care of it,'” said Sue Donaldson of the Cooperative Extension. “Actually, all of the laws say, ‘No, it’s (the property owner’s) responsibility.’ I’m trying to bridge that gap and say, ‘Let’s all work together to solve this problem.'”

Tall whitetop – Lepidium latifolium – is a weed that spreads quickly in wet soil, crowding out native vegetation. It has large roots, but they are not fibrous like native plants. The noxious weed does nothing to control erosion.

That is especially dangerous at Lake Tahoe, where erosion is a large factor in the lake’s declining clarity.

While only a handful of tall whitetop infestations had been spotted in the basin last summer, officials now know of at least 35.

There are larger infestations around the lower Truckee and Carson rivers. It spreads through rivers and irrigation systems. Flood irrigation carries it into hay meadows, pastures and other irrigated land.

Contaminated straw used in erosion control projects is one way tall whitetop could have come into the basin.

Donaldson, a water-quality specialist, said she wants Tahoe residents to “adopt a spot.”

“Some of the known locations of tall whitetop are in sensitive locations, where we don’t want to run the risk of contaminating the water,” she said. “We’re looking for volunteers who will pull out existing weeds out of the sites and then come back every two to three weeks to see if any more has grown. They would do it from May through about September and report to us on how it’s going.”

Donaldson will also train residents how to identify the infestation and how to get rid of it.

“If we can get our monitoring program going, we’re well on our way to seeing less of this weed in the Tahoe Basin,” she said.

Residents who think they may have tall whitetop on their property or who want to volunteer to help are encouraged to call Sue Donaldson at (775) 784-4848 or (775) 832-4150.

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