New tests raise mussel worries at 2 reservoirs
RENO (AP) – State wildlife officials said Tuesday new tests at two popular reservoirs in northern Nevada have heightened their concerns about the potential for an outbreak of invasive quagga mussels.
Multiple sampling techniques have confirmed microscopic juvenile quaggas are present in Lahontan Reservoir southeast of Fernley, said Rich Haskins, deputy director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
An initial positive test at Rye Patch Reservoir has not been confirmed but Haskins said they consider that man-made lake between Lovelock and Winnemucca “suspect” and are treating it as if the invader is present there as well.
Juvenile detections don’t always lead to established adult populations, and waterways are not formally deemed “infested” until adults are found, he explained.
But a finding of juvenile quagga mussels is “extremely serious,” Haskins said. “We absolutely cannot wait for that potential before we come up with programs and policies to keep any potential infestation from spreading.”
Department of Wildlife spokesman Ed Lyngar said that while both Lahontan and Rye Patch are being treated the same, the most urgent potential for harm is at Lahontan.
“Lahontan is positive for baby quaggas. The tests they took there were conclusive,” he said.
The mussels native to Eastern Europe can cover beaches with sharp shells, overwhelm a lake’s natural ecosystem and cause blooms of noxious algae. They pose a threat to native plants and animals and can cause millions of dollars in damage to water system infrastructure.
The first outbreak of quagga mussels in Nevada was at Lake Mead in 2007. The mussels most often are spread by trailers, boats and equipment that travel between waterways.
Boat inspections already are mandatory at Lake Mead as well as Lake Tahoe, although none have been confirmed yet in Tahoe.
Haskins noted that Gov. Brian Sandoval last month signed into law legislation granting the agency authority and tools to mitigate the spread of all invasive species. The new law also includes authority and funding to start a boat inspection program for invasive species statewide, something Haskins said his agency is reviewing.