Boats to be inspected for aquatic invaders
As soon as this weekend, boaters should expect to answer a series of questions, and if warranted, have their vessel inspected for invasive mussels if they want to launch into Tahoe’s blue waters.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is looking to amend their code of ordinances this month to make it unlawful for a boat to enter Lake Tahoe with aquatic invasive species attached to the vessel’s hull, engine or bilge.
The proposed amendment would require that all boats wishing to enter Tahoe’s waters first undergo an inspection at public boat launches across the Basin.
If any invasive species is found, the vessel will not be allowed into Tahoe’s waters until it is decontaminated. Four portable boat wash stations will likely be located on each shore of the lake.
Failure to comply could wind up with the boat owner facing a $5,000 fine, according to TRPA documentation.
“The reason we’re doing this is to protect the lake and keep it as pristine as possible,” said Dennis Oliver, TRPA spokesman. “We know that the reason people come here is that it is a special place … we expect that people will cooperate with [the inspections] and be fine with it, for the most part.”
The Advisory Planning Commission will review the code’s language today at their meeting in South Lake Tahoe. The proposed amendment will then be presented to the TRPA Governing Board for approval tentatively at their meeting later this month.
“This is more about getting it into the code, so our code is consistent with what we’re doing,” Oliver said.
On-site checks of vessels will begin Friday, May 16 at boat launches throughout the Basin. Inspection efforts will be increased starting Memorial Day Weekend and maintained throughout the busy summer months.
“They’re basically trying to pinpoint where the boat has been and what the most recent history of use is going to be,” Oliver said.
Part-time staff from the TRPA or other regulatory agencies will likely be assigned to the boat launches in Tahoe Vista and Kings Beach, said Parks and Recreation Manager Kathy Long of the North Tahoe Public Utility District.
“They’ll be working very closely with our parking attendants,” she said.
The California Department of Fish and Game assigned a mussel-sniffing dog to the Tahoe Basin this summer. The canine will be roving among the different boat launches.
“These dogs can be trained to lock onto a person’s scent. They can be trained to look for substances or they can be trained to actually sniff out the quagga mussel,” Oliver said. “And this dog has been trained to do this.”
Ted Slabik, purchaser for Obexer’s Boat Company, said that he is concerned about the inspections backing up traffic from the launch and into Highway 89.
“I don’t think it would impact business, I just think there would be some sort of traffic backups,” Slabik said. “That is definitely a concern.”
While the logistics have yet to be outlined, Slabik did say that boaters are generally aware of the threat posed by aquatic species and supportive of measures to protect Lake Tahoe.
“They are sympathetic of what’s going on,” he said. “Nobody wants the mussel in the lake. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
A TV-spot educating viewers about aquatic invasive species and notifying them of the inspections started airing on Charter Communications cable stations this week.
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