Tahoe regulators consider boat inspection fees | SierraSun.com

Tahoe regulators consider boat inspection fees

The Associated Press

LAKE TAHOE ” Lake Tahoe regulators are considering boat inspection fees to fund efforts to keep invasive mussels out of the scenic lake.

Boat inspections were implemented last summer when environmental officials feared quagga and zebra mussels that have invaded other waters in Nevada, California and elsewhere could hitch a ride on boat hulls and become established at Lake Tahoe.

Last year’s program was funded by temporary grants, and officials estimate keeping the inspections going will cost about $650,000 annually.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board is expected to consider a plan before summer, possibly later this month.

Potential fees could range from as little as $5 to as much as $60, depending on the size of the boat.

“We’re trying to really protect the lake, and in order to have an inspection program, we need to have some sort of consistent, long-term funding source,” said Ted Thayer, TRPA’s natural resource and science team leader.

The program is designed to target boats that have used bodies of water other than Tahoe and which might be contaminated with mussels.

When boats exit the lake, a zip-tie seal would be fixed between boat and trailer by inspectors. If the seal is intact when a boat launches again, no new inspection will be needed. If the seal is broken, one will.

Inspectors also could order boats to be decontaminated and impose fines for noncompliance under the proposal.

Quagga mussels first turned up in Lake Mead in early 2007 and have since spread to other water bodies in southern Nevada and California. Zebra mussels were discovered in a reservoir 250 miles from Tahoe in January 2008.

If either were to become established in Lake Tahoe, experts say the environmental and economic consequences could be severe. Once entrenched, there’s no way to get rid of them.

“They can actually collapse the whole aquatic ecosystem,” Thayer said.

Mussels could also clog water intakes, become attached to boats and piers and litter beaches with sharp and stinking shells.