Fees may pay for effort on mussels | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Fees may pay for effort on mussels

Annie Flanzraich / North Lake Tahoe Bonanza

LAKE TAHOE ” Boats entering Lake Tahoe this summer might be subject to a fee to fund efforts to keep invasive mussels out of the lake.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency implemented inspections last summer, with funding from temporary grants. Officials estimate that keeping the inspections going will cost about $650,000 annually.

To fund that cost, a sliding fee scale may be applied to boat inspections. Fees could range anywhere from $5 to $60 depending on the size of the boat.

Along with the fee structure, TRPA will also begin fixing a zip-tie seal between a trailer and boat that has exited the lake. If the seal is intact when a boat launches again, no new inspection will be necessary. If the seal is broken, one will.

“It is feasible to continue to have a seal reapplied to your boat for the life of the boat and never have to pay again,” said TRPA Spokesman Jeff Cowen.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board is expected to consider a plan before summer, possibly later this month.

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“We’re trying to really protect the lake, and in order to have an inspection program, we need to have some sort of consistent, long-term funding source,” said Ted Thayer, TRPA’s natural resources and science team leader.

The program is designed to target boats that have used bodies of water other than Tahoe and which might be contaminated with mussels.

In addition to the fees and zip ties, the agency is also considering centralized inspection stations around the lake to alleviate waiting periods at ramps. Boaters would visit the inspection station, recieve a zip tie and then go to the ramp of their choice.

Quagga mussels first turned up in Lake Mead in early 2007 and have since spread to other water bodies in southern Nevada and California. Zebra mussels were discovered in a reservoir 250 miles from Tahoe in January 2008.

If either were to become established in Lake Tahoe, experts say the environmental and economic consequences could be severe.

Once the mussels are entrenched, there’s no way to get rid of them, officials have said.

“They can actually collapse the whole aquatic ecosystem,” Thayer said.

Mussels could also clog water intakes, become attached to boats and piers and litter beaches with sharp and stinking shells.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.