Battling invasive species: Lahontan Reservoir launches wash stations

Steve Puterski

Wash stations

Nevada State Parks will construct two watercraft decontamination stations to the Lahontan State Recreation Area for aquatic invasive species at the Silver Springs entrance and the boat ramp near U.S. 50.

Cost for boaters is $10 and can be paid when a individuals register their boats.

FALLON, Nev. — Aquatic invasive species are on notice — at not just at Lake Tahoe or Donner Lake.

The Bureau of Reclamation, Nevada Department of Wildlife and other entities are making a pre-emptive strike on quagga mussels at Lahontan, Rye Patch and Wildhorse reservoirs.

Boaters this season will be required to enter one of two decontamination stations for the Lahontan Reservoir at the Silver Springs entrance and the boat ramp near U.S. Highway 50, according to Andrea Minor, BOR spokesperson.

Minor said the decision came from the Northern Nevada quagga mussel task force, a group of federal and state agencies targeting the spreading of the species.

“They’re starting to implement the watercraft inspection program,” she added. “It’s an important program. They don’t want to mess up their water. It impacts fisheries, it impacts wildlife … and prevention is the way to do it.”

Tony Beauregard, park supervisor, said a $10 fee added to boater registration by the Nevada Department of Wildlife will assist covering the cost of the program. Most of the funds, though, were secured through federal grants as the total cost of the installation of the stations is at about $600,000.

Once the $10 fee is paid, Beauregard said a marking will be placed on the boat to notify state officials the vessel has been inspected. If that boat visits another reservoir or lake, the tag will be removed and another inspection must be conducted upon return to Lahontan Reservoir.

Beauregard said insepctions should take between 15 to 30 minutes. Boaters who do not visit other lakes will have a quicker time passing through inspections. Beauregard said the goal is to have the stations open by May 1.

“We will have three wash machines,” he said. “Coming to Lahontan to boat is not increasing any fees to get into the park. There will be a time factor for boaters coming into the park. Plan ahead and come in early.

BOR officials discovered quagga muscle larvae (veligers) in May 2011 at Lahontan Reservoir during routine testing. Those mussels have wrecked havoc on dozens of lakes throughout the country including Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas.

According to the United States Geographical Survey (USGS), quagga mussels were first sighted in the Great Lakes in 1989, although they were not confirmed until 2005 in Lake Superior.

In all, BOR officials have been testing the two Northern Nevada reservoirs for five years. The mussels have caused numerous problems at Lake Mead, which were discovered in 2007, as the thumbnail-sized pests disrupt water flows through hydroelectric equipment in addition to limiting flows in boat turbines, motors and propellers.

At Truckee/Tahoe, inspections have been voluntary in previous years at Donner Lake, but they’ve been mandatory since 2008 at Lake Tahoe under an agreement between the Tahoe Resource Conservation District and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. This summer, inspections will also be mandatory at Donner Lake and other popular Truckee-area water bodies.

The most effective method of eliminating risk of contamination, Minor said, is to clean, drain and dry boats.

As for targeting suspected watercraft, Minor said Lahontan State Recreation Area officials will interview individuals to identify where boats have previously been.

Beauregard echoed Minor’s thoughts.

“We are trying to make this an education program to get boaters in the habit of cleaning, draining and drying,” he said. “Drain the boat and make sure it’s clean. We are trying to create a responsible habit.”

Rusty Jardine, project manager of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, said it is important to have preventative measures at Lahontan Reservoir, which is approximately 18 miles west of Fallon and 45 miles east of Carson City. He said the past two years have not yielded any positive tests for quaggas.

If the mussels were to invade Lahontan, Jardine said it could have a devastating toll on TCID.

Much like Lake Mead, TCID relies on hydroelectric facilities at the dam to provide power. TCID generates income from the hydropower and issues with mussels would cost the district time, manpower and equipment to remove them from structures throughout the Truckee Canal system.

The quagga mussel, meanwhile, is a round freshwater mollusk about 1.5 inches in length, according to the USGS. The mussels typically have dark rings on the shell and color patterns can vary from black, cream or white.

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