Mysterious red stuff growing in Martis reservoir | SierraSun.com
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Mysterious red stuff growing in Martis reservoir

Lindsey RhynardAn invasive plant with a reddish hue has taken over parts of Martis Creek Reservoir. Tests are being conducted to determine its origin.
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Despite its red flowers, it’s a bloom that many fail to see any beauty in.

The flowers are part of an ever-growing vegetative mass in the United States Army Corp of Engineers’ Martis Creek Reservoir.

It is not known what the plant is, or if it is native or non-native.



What is known is that it is growing, and so is the foreboding among those who frequent the lake.

Local fishing guru Bruce Ajari said that after noticing a gradual increase of the plant over the last several years, it took over the reservoir last year to such an extent that fishing was virtually impossible.



And this year may be even worse, Ajari said

“There is more weed formation than I have seen in over 20 years,” Ajari said. “There is something going on out there.”

Army Corp of Engineers officials said they don’t know what the weed is either, only that weed blooms are common in area lakes, especially in the summer.

Jack Hiscox, a California Department of Fish and Game fisheries biologist based in Nevada City, and Jill Wilson, an environmental scientist for the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board were both unavailable.

The non-native Eurasian watermilfoil has, however, become an increasingly common in and around Lake Tahoe.

During the summer months, it produces rigid pink flowers that protrude above the water, similar to that of the unidentified plant in Martis Creek Reservoir.

Eurasian Watermilfoil has been identified in Emerald Bay, the Sunnyside Marina, Crystal Bay and in the Truckee River behind the dam.

According to Wayne Johnson, an integrated pest management specialist and a professor at UNR, all it will take to identify the weed is a trip to his office.

“Bring it in, and if I can’t identify it, we have the resources to get it identified in a couple of days,” he said.

Johnson co-authored a University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension center report on watermilfoil.

According to the report, the watermilfoil’s rapid growth and decay can degrade water quality, crowd out native plant species and deplete oxygen in the water needed by fish populations. And because of the dense, matted vines, it also presents problems for boat propellers, water skiers and fisherman.

“Let’s hope it’s not watermilfoil. Because if it is, Martis Creek Reservoir is in big trouble,” Johnson warned.


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