Invasive species: Keeping them out of the region, not just Lake Tahoe

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TRUCKEE - The impacts of invasive species reaching local reservoirs could create a devastating ripple through the region's ecology, recreation and economy.

On Lake Tahoe, boat inspections looking for invading quagga and zebra mussels have been mandatory since 2008, but the only safeguard for local bodies of water like Donner Lake and Prosser Reservoir is the Agricultural Inspection Station on Interstate 80.

However, starting this summer, with oversight from the Tahoe Resource Conservation District and $231,000 from the Truckee Meadow Water Authority's Truckee River Fund, Craig Threshie aims to change that.

"It's a significant challenge to conquer; to allow fishing and boating enthusiasts to continue to enjoy our waters while preventing the spread of invasive species," Threshie said, who is now the program coordinator for the Truckee Regional Invasive Species Prevention Program.

The funding is enough to get through a one-year pilot program aimed to protect the lakes of the region: Donner, Prosser, Boca, Stampede and Independence, Threshie said.

"The pilot program we're considering would consist of six inspectors who can request to do inspections on boats entering local lakes," Threshie said. "They can do education, and if they see a contaminated vessel, they can offer decontamination at no charge."

In a recent meeting, Truckee Vice Mayor Richard Anderson asked why inspections would be voluntary rather than mandatory, as they are on Tahoe. Threshie said the local government would need an enforceable ordinance, like one created by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Local jurisdictions on these lakes include the Town of Truckee and Nevada and Placer counties.

The pervasive mussels appear to have been brought from Russia into the Great Lakes in 1988, Threshie said, and have spread out to infest 584 lakes nationally.

"Trailered water craft are the most significant vector of invasive species," Threshie said.

One female mussel produces up to 1 million eggs annually, he said.

"Quagga and zebra mussels are probably the most devastating of invasive species at this time," Threshie said. "Billions of dollars are being spent on that problem - they clog pipes, create a stench and cover beaches with very sharp shells."

Other invasive species pave the way for quagga and zebra mussels, like the Asian clam, already in Tahoe - and possibly in Donner, Threshie said.

On Tahoe last year, 13 contaminated vessels were intercepted, Threshie said, and 429 were caught at the Agricultural Inspection Station on Interstate 80. Boats are decontaminated with 140 -degree water, he said.


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