Mussels not welcome in county lakes, homeowners say | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Mussels not welcome in county lakes, homeowners say

Kyle Magin
Tribune News Service

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. – Don’t move a mussel.

That’s a message Lake of the Pines homeowners are putting out on the community’s website, warning boaters against transporting potentially devastating aquatic invasive species.

Zebra and quagga mussels have not yet entered local waterways – and local officials and residents want to keep it that way.

Representatives from LOP and Lake Wildwood recently met with officials from Nevada County, Nevada Irrigation District and regional experts on stopping the spread of aquatic invasives.

“A lot of boaters aren’t quite sure what a disaster they could be in the lake,” said Steve Sutter, a Lake of the Pines resident and Lake Committee member in the homeowner’s association.

Quagga and zebra mussels are among the most high-profile invaders, as they were transported from Eurasian waters to the Great Lakes via ocean-going vessels and have since jumped from inland lake to inland lake, hitching rides on trailered boats and eventually ending up in Southern California and Lake Mead, said David Kean, the program coordinator for the Truckee Watercraft Inspection Program.

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Juvenile mussels are nearly microscopic and can stow away in a boat’s ballast or intake, releasing into a new water body when boat owners trailer to a new lake, Kean said.

There they wreak havoc, reproducing quickly and covering moorings, dock pilings and boat bottoms, as well as clogging pipes and covering boat areas, according to the California Dept. of Fish and Game. Mussels choke out other species by disrupting the bottom of the food chain, eating small plankton that feed the animals larger fish feed on.

Kean and a group of seven volunteers inspect boats whose owners want to launch them in Truckee-area waterways including Donner Lake and Boca and Prosser reservoirs.

He was one of a few experts to meet with leaders from NID, Lake of the Pines and Lake Wildwood to talk about his efforts and concerns.

“Zebra and quagga mussels can do tremendous economic damage,” Kean said. “It’s a huge concern for us, particularly being in a tourist area.”

Kean’s organization, which is funded by a grant, uses its volunteers to inspect incoming boats. Boaters coming from waterways known as homes for mussels are inspected for water in their motors and mussels on the hull their boats, he said.

If there is a reason for concern, boaters are advised to go to a boat decontamination facility in the Lake Tahoe area. While volunteers can’t deny access to boaters, they do their best to educate, Kean said.

“Our goal is to work together with boaters to maintain access to these waterways, but we don’t want them bringing these species in,” Kean said.

An inspection program is already in place at Lake of the Pines, Sutter said. Scotts Flat Lake and Rollins Lake are inspected by NID employees, said NID recreation manager Peggy Davidson.

Participants at the meeting agreed to look into the issue further and potentially create a regional plan for inspections, Sutter said.

The groups are also looking at funding sources for bringing a boat decontamination facility to western Nevada County. Currently, the closest facility is at Lake Tahoe.