Lake Tahoe boating season successful; decontaminations double from 2009 |

Lake Tahoe boating season successful; decontaminations double from 2009

Matthew Renda
Sierra Sun
Sun File Photo

LAKE TAHOE and#8212; Regional officials are touting the effectiveness of a comprehensive watercraft inspection program in preventing the introduction this year of aquatic invasive species into the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe.

Watercraft inspectors managed by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, in cooperation with Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, performed more than 8,000 boat inspections during the 2010 boating season, officials revealed this week, and a total of 19,000 watercraft launches occurred with Tahoe-specific inspection seals.

Of those numbers, 11 watercraft containing aquatic invasive species were intercepted and decontaminated, officials confirmed.

and#8220;We’re very happy with the watercraft inspection program thus far,and#8221; said Patrick Stone, TRPA’s senior wildlife and fisheries biologist and lead for early detection monitoring of invasive mussels. and#8220;Investigations conducted around Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake and Echo Lake confirmed that quagga and zebra mussels have not established in our lakes. These results are a credit to the inspection program.and#8221;

The inspection program’s primary focus is on prevention and#8212; once invasive mussels establish a foothold in a given body of water, eradication is nearly impossible and control is both costly and time consuming.

While it may be good news from 2010, it doesn’t mean efforts can slack off.

Local agencies remain on high alert as western waterbodies and#8212; recently untouched by invasive species that have created dire environmental problems on the eastern portion of North America and#8212; have become increasingly susceptible to invasive species.

Waterbodies in California and Nevada already infected with invasive mussels include San Justo Reservoir, Lake Mead, Lake Havasu and the entire Colorado River system.

Due to the proximity of those water bodies to Tahoe, the monitoring of watercraft takes on additional importance, said Pete Brumis, public outreach specialist with the resource conservation district. For this reason, decontaminations of suspicious watercraft doubled from about 600 in 2009 to 1,208 to 2010.

and#8220;It only takes one contaminated boat to introduce aquatic invasive species into Lake Tahoe,and#8221; said Kim Boyd, TRCD biological resources program manager. and#8220;We need to remain vigilant and not let our guard down.and#8221;

TRPA also added off-highway locations this year around the basin, which allowed boaters to have inspections performed before reaching the marina, a move that Brumis said helped the program’s overall success.

About 31 percent of all inspections performed in 2010 took place at off-highway locations, Brumis said.

In a widely publicized incident, Mark Kanev, a Los Angeles resident, was caught in late June 2010 attempting to evade a mandatory decontamination ordered by TRCD, and he eventually was fined $5,000 by TRPA.

On June 28, Kanev told inspectors the boat he was attempting to launch had last been in the waters of Sand Hollow Reservoir in Utah and#8212; a water body with a known infestation of invasive mussels.

When water was found in the boat’s ballast, inspectors deemed a full decontamination was necessary and scheduled an appointment for three days later.

However, Kanev went to a different inspection the next day and changed his story and managed to successfully launch his boat into Tahoe. When he did not arrive for his scheduled decontamination, inspectors alerted officials, who located Kanev’s vessel moored in Rubicon Bay. Kanev later told inspectors his boat had been in Lake Powell (located on the Utah/Arizona border), which is not mussel-infested, and omitted any reference to Sand Hollow.

The incident spurred TRCD to strengthen watchlist procedures and create more capacity for decontamination so boaters could perform the procedure in a more timely manner.

Some TRPA governing board members advocated for stiffer penalties for any individual who willfully misleads or attempts to mislead watercraft inspectors, regardless of whether his or her vessel successfully launches into Tahoe.

and#8220;Any deliberate attempts to evade boat inspectors should be a fineable offense, especially when considering the devastating ecological and economic impacts the introduction of invasive species could have on Lake Tahoe,and#8221; said Shelly Aldean, member of the TRPA board.

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