Bug Busters | SierraSun.com

Bug Busters

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun
Greyson Howard/Sierra SunA.G. Kawamura, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, speaks at the grand opening of the new Agricultural Inspection Station in Truckee. The station, set to accept both commercial and private vehicle traffic within the next few weeks, will inspect private vehicles towing boats in attempt to prevent the spread of invasive quagga and zebra mussels.
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The new Truckee Agricultural Inspection Station on Interstate 80 is open, and private vehicle inspections are once again in the cards.

While the old station, located just west of the Highway 89 south exit, had “no inspection today” signs posted in recent years, the newly built station a few miles east at the truck scales could start targeting private vehicles towing boats, pending budget approval.

That was the message several state officials gave Monday during a brief opening ceremony at the newly built inspection station. The roughly $20 million project, which broke ground in June 2005, updated the facility and moved it to the outskirts of Truckee, where its location will allow better coordination with the California Highway Patrol truck weigh station.

Spokeswoman Nancy Lungren of the California Department of Food and Agriculture said the department has asked for $2.5 million to inspect boats for quagga and zebra mussels at five state inspection stations, including Truckee.

The two mussels are invasive species that disrupt lake’s food chains, clog water pipes, and damage boats, docks, and ramps by attaching themselves to underwater surfaces, and threaten Lake Tahoe, among other lakes in the state.

Program Supervisor Gary Leslie of the state Department of Food and Agriculture said a pilot project testing the need for private vehicle inspection in Needles, Calif., turned up significant results.

“The study indicated that private vehicles definitely present a risk of bringing dangerous pests into California,” Leslie said.

Funding to pay for private vehicle inspection will also allow inspections of other suspect vehicles when watercraft aren’t numerous, including vehicles from states with known pests, rented moving vans and livestock trailers.

Stacie Budewitz, a plant quarantine supervisor at the station, said inspectors will be especially strict with boats.

“We have new regulations even with local boats, we’ve found quagga [mussels] right next door,” Budewitz said.

While commercial trucks already are required to pass through the new station, all vehicles should be routed through the new station within a few weeks, pending approval from Caltrans to redirect the interstate highway’s westbound lanes, Leslie said.

Budewitz, the inspector, said commercial vehicle inspection has already paid off at the new station, with 19 samples of pest materials found so far this month.