Sun editorial: communication breakdown
The news we uncovered last week of a potentially high-risk boat entering Lake Tahoe is troubling and#8212; not only because our pristine lake could have been ruined, but also because this never should have happened had better communication existed among our lakewide boat inspectors.
While the boat was inspected by Tahoe Resource Conservation District inspectors on June 28 at Cave Rock and turned away because they believed it came from a high-risk area, it was approved to enter the lake later that day after the owner gave the same organization different information at the Meyers inspection area off U.S. Highway 50.
This lack of communication is unacceptable. It is unfortunate TRCD’s policies at the time did not include immediately placing the boat on a watch list, rather than doing so after it did not show up for a July 1 decontamination and#8212; three days later. To not red flag the vessel right away for all inspectors to notice represented a major flaw in the system designed to prevent non-native species from entering Lake Tahoe.
What’s even worse is this information was not made public until it showed up on Friday, Aug. 20, as a small agenda item on the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board packet and#8212; seven weeks later. The fact we as a newspaper had to break the story shows not only a failure in communication among boat inspectors, but also a breakdown in communication to the public.
Thankfully, the boat didn’t hail from the high-risk environment of Sand Hollow Reservoir in Utah as officials originally believed, and no traces of quagga mussel DNA has been found in Tahoe’s waters where the boat was anchored.
We do applaud TRCD for realizing its mistake and implementing more ambitious boat inspection policies; furthermore, it’s good to see the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency address the issue of the three-day wait between inspection and decontamination by purchasing additional decontamination machines which will double the capacity at inspection stations. And a $5,000 fine levied against the alleged perpetrator should help deter others from cheating the system.
However, this incident shows that our environmental organizations must always be alert and continue to seek ways to improve the inspection process.
We were lucky this time, but we must never rely on luck to maintain the beauty and economic splendor Lake Tahoe can afford.