EDITORIAL: Communication breakdown
The news last week of a potentially high-risk boat entering Lake Tahoe is troubling for many reasons. Our pristine lake could have been ruined, but more so better communication among lakewide boat inspectors at the time could have prevented it.
Tahoe Resource Conservation District inspectors looked at the boat in question June 28 at Cave Rock and turned away because they believed it came from a high-risk area. That very same day day it was approved to enter the lake at the Meyers inspection area off U.S. Highway 50 after the owner gave the same organization different information.
This lack of communication is unacceptable. It is unfortunate TRCD’s policies at the time did not include immediately placing the boat on a watch list. Instead, the boat was placed on a watch list after it did not show up for a July 1 decontamination – three days later. To not notify other inspectors of a known threat was a major flaw in the system designed to prevent invasive species from entering Lake Tahoe.
The TRCD and TRPA also failed to communicate this information to the public until it was published as a small agenda item on the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board packet Friday – seven weeks later.
Thankfully, the boat didn’t hail from the high-risk environment of Sand Hollow Reservoir in Utah as officials originally believed, and no trace of quagga mussel DNA has been found in Tahoe’s waters where the boat was anchored.
We do applaud TRCD for quickly recognizing the flaw in its procedures and addressing it. from now on any vessel that is sent for decontamination is circulated to all inspection locations and launch sites as a prohibited vessel.
The TRPA is also taking steps to address the long wait between this boater’s inspection and decontamination date by purchasing additional decontamination machines which will double the capacity at inspection stations.
The $5,000 fine levied against the alleged perpetrator should help deter others from cheating the system.
However, this incident shows that our environmental organizations must always be alert and continue to seek ways to improve the inspection process.
We were lucky this time, but we must never rely on luck to maintain the beauty and economic splendor Lake Tahoe can afford.
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