The Nevada Department of Wildlife is pumping about $1 million a year into the battle to block the spread of the quagga mussel in Nevada’s lakes and rivers.
The mussel, native to the Dnieper River in the Ukraine, has become so pervasive in Lake Mead that, according to Wildlife’s Patrick Cates, the state had to shut down the fishery there. The thumbnail-sized mussel causes major damage to pumps, intakes and other structures, reduces water quality in general and can deplete oxygen in the water.
Cates said there are a number of aquatic invasive species the department is worried about, but the quagga is the most serious threat to Nevada’s waterways.
Cates told lawmakers on Thursday that Wildlife has awarded subgrants to the Bureau of Reclamation and State Parks. Seasonal hires will inspect boats and educate boaters at Lake Lahontan, Rye Patch and Wild Horse reservoirs this summer, he said.
The department also is hiring three roaming inspectors who will move around the state providing boaters with wash-down services as well as education, Cates said.
The fisheries-management budget includes nearly $800,000 a year for those and other activities, including the cost of existing inspectors.
In addition, Cates said the law enforcement budget contains nearly $150,000 a year in boating revenue to enable boating-safety wardens to enforce laws designed to prevent the introduction of invasive species in Nevada’s lakes and streams. They, like the roaming inspectors, will go where needed to inspect and assist boaters.
But most of the program’s efforts this year will focus on education, he said.
“It’s going to take a while for people to know what their responsibilities are,” Cates said, adding that there will be few citations in the first year.
He was asked by subcommittee chairman Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, if the budget contains enough money to do the job.
“There isn’t enough money to guarantee the quagga won’t spread,” Cates said.
He said the program contained in the proposed budget is the best the department can do with the funding available.