Donner Lake access gate among ideas being floated for future protection
A public workshop will be held Sept. 28 at 6 p.m. at Truckee Town Hall, where additional Donner Lake boating solutions will be discussed.
Visit svy.mk/29SxoSY to participate in the “Donner Lake Public Boat Ramp Access Survey.”
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Quagga mussels, zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil — these and other invasive species are what inspectors are searching for before they’ll allow boats to enter Donner Lake.
If they’re found, the boat will have to be quarantined and decontaminated using high-pressure water before being permitted to enter the water.
As part of ongoing efforts to control invasive species and protect Donner Lake, the Tahoe Resource Conservation District began conducting mandatory inspections in 2014 on behalf of the town of Truckee.
“We don’t want the chance of anything getting into Donner,” said Truckee Police Department Service Manager Dan Olsen.
As of late last week, more than 1,400 boats have been inspected this season at Donner Lake. Inspections at the lake will close following the holiday weekend on Sept. 4, according to the town, meaning non-permit vessels must travel to Lake Tahoe inspection stations at Alpine Meadows, Spooner Summit or Meyers to get a sticker.
According to TRCD, those stations will remain open through the end of the month (the summer boating season is classified as May 1 through Sept. 30).
As for 2017 and beyond at Donner Lake, additional measures are being considered to protect its waters even more, though nothing has yet been decided.
Olsen said that the TCRD and town of Truckee held a joint meeting in June in an attempt to collect public comment on some ideas.
Perhaps the largest solution being considered, both in size and impact, is a gate to control access to the lake.
“The goal with the gate is to be able to get reciprocity — to allow one inspection to allow access to both lakes (Lake Tahoe),” said Olsen. “In order to do that, we’d need to make Donner a controlled-access lake.”
Though no gate is currently being proposed, it’s an idea the town is interested in receiving public comment on, said Olsen, adding that the town also released a survey to learn what people think of the idea and to better understand what’s important to residents.
“The gate is one option but it’s not the only option,” he said. “We’re going to propose those at our Sept. 28 meeting.”
Although the survey open until Sept. 5, Olsen said it has shown some surprising results so far.
“The trend right now is showing reciprocity is not as important as we thought it was in the beginning,” he said.
Inspections at Donner Lake used to be voluntary. In the last two years, a few contaminated vessels have been discovered, though not nearly as many as in Lake Tahoe, said Olsen.
More than 7,300 watercraft inspections have been conducted at Lake Tahoe this year, according to a news release last week from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, with more than 3,500 resulting in decontaminations.
Visit tahoeboatinspections.com to learn more about the Lake Tahoe inspections.
While inspectors are looking for the same invasive species at both Tahoe and Donner, the fees for both programs are different.
So far, the fees collected at Donner Lake have not been enough to pay for the program’s cost, but Olsen said the additional funding comes from grants.
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Unless a series of storms blankets the Sierra Nevada with snow, California and Nevada are facing critically dry years.