Money would fund invasive inspections at ag stations
A $2.5 million request by the California Department of Food and Agriculture to inspect boats for quagga and zebra mussels at five state agricultural inspection stations could provide money for the Truckee station, which has already seen invasive mussel activity this year.
Two instances of zebra mussels on towed boats have occurred at the old inspection station since January, according to Jay Van Rein, spokesman for the department of food and agriculture. A new inspection station in Truckee was recently opened on Interstate 80, east of town.
Getting the most out of limited funds on the busiest highways was the motivation behind selecting the stations, according to Nancy Lungren, spokeswoman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
While the Meyers inspection station did not make the list, preventing introduction of invasive mussels to the Lake Tahoe Basin at the site would be limited by its location on westbound Highway 50, heading out of town.
Four of the five stations selected by the department of food and agriculture are located in Southern California, in close proximity to Arizona waterways already infested by quagga mussels, such as Lake Mead and the Colorado River Basin.
Zebra and quagga mussels are invasive species that disrupt the lake’s food chains, clog water pipes, and damage boats, docks, and ramps by attaching themselves to underwater surfaces.
Attention of the inspectors has long been on commercial traffic, but if the request for funding is heeded in California’s 2008 budget, private vehicles could also get a closer look.
Program Supervisor Gary Leslie of the state Department of Food and Agriculture said a pilot project testing the need for private vehicle inspection in Needles, Calif., turned up significant results.
“The study indicated that private vehicles definitely present a risk of bringing dangerous pests into California,” Leslie said.
Funding to pay for private vehicle inspection will also allow inspections of other suspect vehicles when watercraft aren’t numerous, including vehicles from states with known pests, rented moving vans and livestock trailers.
Stacie Budewitz, a plant quarantine supervisor at the station, said inspectors will be especially strict with boats.
“We have new regulations even with local boats, we’ve found quagga (mussels) right next door,” Budewitz said.