Tahoe inspectors intercept record number of boats carrying aquatic invasive species

The number of boats trying to launch at Lake Tahoe while carrying aquatic invasive species rose to uncharted levels in 2021.

Tahoe’s watercraft inspection program intercepted more boats than ever this season carrying aquatic invasive species while the number of watercraft being inspected also showed an uptick, but no new invasive species have been detected in the lake, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency announced recently.

Inspectors intercepted 28 boats with invasive Dreissenid mussels, marking the most ever found in a single season, well over the 20 discovered in 2020 and half that many the prior year.

Traveling boats and trailers are the most common way aquatic invasive species are spread. This substantial increase in intercepted mussels stems from a large number of newly purchased boats from other states with known aquatic invasive species and a general increase in boating activity and travel.

“With an uptick in the volume of boats, higher numbers of infested boats is expected,” said Thomas Boos, who directs the program for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “The program is one of the best in the nation because we are so thorough, but it’s startling to see this shift. Boaters really need to be helping us.”

If Dreissenid mussel species, including zebra and quagga mussels, along with other aquatic invasive species like New Zealand mudsnails were to make their way into Lake Tahoe, they could wreak havoc on the lake’s fragile ecosystem, clarity, regional economy, and quality of recreation in the basin. Watercraft inspectors inspect every watercraft that comes through the stations for all types of aquatic invasive species.

The best way to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species is to “Clean, Drain and Dry” watercraft before entering another body of water. Every boat found with any vegetation, water, mud or animals will receive a decontamination before launching into the lake. Even as the boating season slows down, it is imperative to continue these practices year-round for both motorized and non-motorized watercraft, the agency said.

The summer of 2021 was the first season the highly successful appointment system was fully implemented for inspections. Boaters took full advantage of scheduled appointments and shorter wait times. The appointment schedule for the next season will open in spring 2022.

At the beginning of the month, watercraft inspection stations transitioned to their winter locations at Cave Rock on the East Shore and the Lake Forest boat ramp in Tahoe City. The lake’s low water levels are not expected to affect either of these year-round launch sites. Both boat ramps will be open daily (weather permitting) for inspections from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Inspections will be first-come, first-served. Decontaminations need to be scheduled several days ahead of time. Watercraft arriving “Clean, Drained and Dry” typically get on the water immediately.

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