Tahoe’s water inspection program celebrates a decade with no new invasive species | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe’s water inspection program celebrates a decade with no new invasive species

Justin Scacco
jscacco@sierrasun.com

Lake Tahoe's Watercraft Inspection Program has fought for the past 10 years to prevent any new invasive species from entering the lake.

Having been hauled thousands of miles from across the country, a pontoon boat bound for a weekend on Lake Tahoe pulls into the Alpine Meadows Watercraft Inspection Station.

It's one of roughly 8,000 motorized vessels that were inspected during this past boating season, and one of more than 5,000 that did not meet Lake Tahoe's Water Inspection Program's standards of being clean, drained and dry.

Upon inspection of the vessel, staff members found a crack in a pontoon, allowing water to enter along with several aquatic invasive species. Within the standing water, adult quagga and zebra mussels, aquatic vegetation, New Zealand mudsnails, and multiple other species were being harbored inside the pontoon system, and waiting for a chance to spread into a new environment.

"This incident is the perfect example of how boats are the number one transport mechanism for aquatic invasive species," said Tahoe Resource Conservation District Program Manager Christopher Kilian in a statement. "This is a good reminder that you could unknowingly transport invasive species and highlights the importance of being diligent when practicing Clean, Drain, and Dry techniques before traveling to a new location.

"They may hide in your hull, in your bilge, on your anchor, in your ballast system, or in this case: inside a pontoon. We'd like everyone to keep this in mind as they travel to other waterbodies or prepare for inspections."

Quagga and zebra mussels are of particular concern, according to the League to Save Lake Tahoe, as they have the ability to reproduce and colonize quickly if ever introduced to Tahoe, and would do irreparable damage to the ecosystem.

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The National Parks Service reported the mussels, which are a problem in the Great Lakes and have been found in bodies of water in California and Nevada, can cause millions of dollars of damage by clogging engines, encrusting boats and facilities, clogging water intakes and pipes, disrupting the food chain, and by littering beaches with sharp, foul-smelling shells.

THOUSANDS OF INSPECTIONS

Since Lake Tahoe's Water Inspection was initiated a decade ago, staff members have inspected tens of thousands of vessels for invasive species, and during that time, no new invasive species have entered Tahoe.

With the beginning of fall, boat inspections will move to select launch ramps and winter hours began on Oct. 1. Conservation district inspectors will be stationed at Cave Rock and Lake Forest boat launch ramps from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week, weather permitting. All boats without an intact Tahoe inspection seal are required to get an inspection.

Decontaminations will be available at the two sites, with fees applying for watercraft that aren't cleaned, drained, and dry. Boats with intact inspection seal are permitted to launch at all open launch facilities. Boaters are encouraged by the district to confirm hours at the two inspection locations by calling 888-824-6267. To learn how to clean, drain, and dry your vessel and prepare for a watercraft inspection, visit http://www.TahoeBoatInspections.com.