Lake Tahoe, Stateline, NV— Smartphones became Lake Tahoe’s first line of defense against the introduction of new aquatic invasive species this summer. As part of recently launched partnerships with agencies around the West, the Lake Tahoe Aquatic Invasive Species Program receives real-time updates from other land managers about vessels traveling to Lake Tahoe from waters with a high risk of containing invasive species. The data-sharing app used by partner agencies acts as an early warning system for Tahoe’s watercraft inspectors.
Since 2009, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) has enforced mandatory watercraft inspections at Lake Tahoe, which has prevented the introduction of new aquatic invasive species. Aquatic invasive species can damage Tahoe’s ecosystem and degrade recreational experiences for residents and visitors.
“We continue to find several boats each year with various aquatic invasive species, and the watercraft inspection program is poised to discover what the next threat could be,” said Dennis Zabaglo, aquatic resources program manager at TRPA. “We’re using every weapon at our disposal, and these regional partnerships are a critical link to conserving the health of Lake Tahoe.”
So far this year, inspectors in the Lake Tahoe Region have conducted more than 7,300 inspections and decontaminated more than 3,500 vessels. Complete numbers are expected to be released as the 2016 boating season winds down.
In 2016 thus far, Lake Tahoe watercraft inspectors have prevented four boats containing quagga mussels from launching on the lake. The most recent discovery took place this month at the boat inspection station in Meyers. Quagga mussels have caused significant environmental damage in U.S. waterways, including the Great Lakes and Lake Mead. In addition, 20 boats have been found with other invasive species, including New Zealand mudsnails, during the inspection process at Lake Tahoe.
“Our inspection staff work hard to prevent new introductions of aquatic invasive species into Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake, Echo Lake, and now Donner Lake,” said Nicole Cartwright, AIS program coordinator with the Tahoe Resource Conservation District (Tahoe RCD), “with over 20 vessels found harvesting invasive species, this validates their efforts and the importance of our program.”
Tahoe inspectors ask boaters to Clean, Drain and Dry their vessels prior to arriving at an inspection station.