Tahoe boats to get mussel searches | SierraSun.com

Tahoe boats to get mussel searches

(AP) Boaters at Lake Tahoe will be facing random inspections at public launches to ensure their vessels aren’t harboring any invasive mussels that could threaten the lake’s ecosystem.

Spot checks of vessels at all of Tahoe’s public boat-launching sites begin May 16 and will last throughout the summer boating season. The goal is to try to prevent the introduction of quagga or zebra mussels.

“They’re heading our way, and we can’t be too careful about this,” said John Singlaub, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Boat inspections are essential in the fight against mussels being waged by TRPA, the Tahoe Resource Conservation District and fish and wildlife agencies from Nevada and California.

If quagga or zebra mussels were to make Tahoe home, officials said, big trouble would follow. The mussels can overrun an aquatic ecosystem, disrupting the food chain and substantially damaging native species. They can clog water intakes and conduits, damage boat engines and produce widespread economic damage.

In January 2007, quagga mussels were discovered in Lake Mead in Southern Nevada. They subsequently were found in Nevada’s Lake Mohave, California’s Lake Havasu and along the Colorado River drainage.

Last January, an angler fishing at San Justo Reservoir, southeast of San Francisco, reported discovering what appeared to be a clump of mussels. Tests revealed them to be the first zebra mussels found in California waters.

Boats that change waters take the mussels with them.

“We’re just trying to get to all of those who might have some unwanted hitchhikers,” Singlaub said. “They’ve been spreading since they were first discovered. This is a big threat.”

Dogs will be trained to smell the mussels. Twelve dogs are stationed in California by the state Department of Fish and Game, with two of them in the Tahoe area, department spokeswoman Alexia Retallack said.

“A dog can smell one live mussel,” Retallack said.

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